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Al. SlJ7^./7L/a 



THE POEMS^OF -fe -fe 




Zlbe iftnfcfterbocftec ipress 



Copyright, 1901 
(For Designs) 


Ube Knickerbocker prcM, flew ffork 



Tamerlane ........ i 

To II 

Dreams 12 

Spirits of the Dead 14 

Evening Star 16 

A Dream Within a Dream . . . .18 
^^ In Youth have I Elnown One with whom the 

Earth" 20 

A Dream 22 

" The Happiest Day, the Happiest Hour " . .23 

The Lake. To 25 

Sonnet: To Science 27 

Al Aaraaf 28 

To the River 47 

To 48 

Romance 49 

Fairy-Land 50 

• • • 






To 52 

Alone 53 

To Helen 55 

Lenore 56 

The Valley of Unrest 58 

The City in the Sea . . . . . .60 

The Sleeper 63 

Israfel 66 

The Coliseum 69 

To One in Paradise 71 

Hymn 73 

To F . . . . . . . .74 

To F s S. O d 75 

Scenes from " Politian " 76 

To Zante 100 

Bridal Ballad 10 1 

The Hatmted Palace 103 

Silence 106 

The Conqueror Worm 107 

Dreamland 109 

The Raven 112 

Eulalie 121 

To M. L. S 123 

Ulalume 124 

To 128 

An Enigma •••••.. 130 

To Helen 131 

A Valentine 134 




The Bells 136 

' Annabel Lee 141 

To My Mother 143 

. For Annie 144 

Eldorado i4i> 


The Purpose of Poetry. Letter to B . . 153 

The Poetic Principle -, 164 

The Rationale of Verse 198 

Notes on English Verse 267 

The Philosophy of Compo^tion .... 287 

List of Illustrations 

Bridal Ballad Pnatiipkce 

" And the voice Beemed bis who foil 
In the battle down the dell. 
And who ia happj now." 

Edgar Allan Poe x 

Etched b; T. Johnson from ■ daguerreotype. 

Tamerlane 6 

" I wrapped ntTself in grandeur then 
And donned a visionary crown." 

A] Aaraaf 30 

*' All hurriedly she knelt upon a bed 
Of flowers: of lilies such as reared the head 
On the fair Capo Deucato." 

The City in the Sea 60 

" While from a proud tower in the town 
Death looks gigantically down." 

To One in Paradise 70 

" For alasl alasl with me 
The light of Life is o'erl ** 

List of Illustrations 


Scenes from " Politian " 82 

*' Fair mirror and true, now tell me (for thou canst) 
A tale, a pretty tale and heed thou not 
Though it be rife with woe." 

Dreamland 108 


Ulalume 124 

** Here once, through an alley Titanic 
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul, 
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul." 

To Helen 130 

" Clad all in white, upon a violet bank 
I saw thee half reclining." 

Annabel Lee 142 

" And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side 
Of my darling — ^my darling — ^my life and my bride, 
In her sepulchre there by ^e sea, 
In her tomb by the soimding sea.*' 

Eldorado 148 





tSB solace in a d]dng hour, 

Such, father, is not now my theme ; 
I will not madly deem that power 
Of earth may shrive me of the sin 
Unearthly pride hath revelled in; 
I have no time to dote or dream ; 
Y9U call it hope, that fire of fire) 
It is but agony of desire ; 
If I can hope — GodI I can- 
Its fount is hoher, more divine. 
I would not call thee fool, old man, 
But such is not a gift of thine. 

Know thou the secret of a spirit 

Bowed from its wild pride into shame. 

yearning heart, I did inherit 

Thy withering portion with the fame, 

The searing glory which hath shone 

Amid the jewels of my throne, 


Halo of hell ! and with a pain 
Not hell shall make me fear again, 

craving heart, for the lost flowers 
And stmshine of my summer hours! 
The undying voice of that dead time. 
With its interminable chime. 
Rings, in the spirit of a spell. 
Upon thy emptiness, a knell. 

1 have not always been as now; 
The fevered diadem on my brow 

I claimed and won usurpingly. 
Hath not the same fierce heirdom given 
Rome to the Caesar, this to me? 
The heritage of a kingly mind. 
And a proud spirit which hath striven 
Triumphantly with human kind. 

On mountain soil I first drew life : 
The mists of the Taglay have shed 
Nightly their dews upon my head. 

And I believe the wingM strife 

And tumult of the headlong air 

Have nestled in my very hair. 

So late from heaven, that dew, it fell 
('Mid dreams of an tmholy night) 

Upon me with the touch of hell. 
While the red flashing of the light 


From clouds that hung, like banners, o'er. 

Appeared to my half-closing eye 

The pageantry of monarchy. 
And the deep trumpet-thtmder's roar 

Came hurriedly upon me, teUing 
Of human battle, where my voice, 

My own voice, silly child! was swelling 
(Oh! how my spirit would rejoice. 
And leap witliin me at the cry) 
The battle-cry of victory! 

The rain came down upon my head 
Unsheltered, and the heavy wind 
Rendered me mad and deaf and blind. 

It was but man, I thought, who shed 
Laurels upon me ; and the rush. 

The torrent of the chilly air 

Gurgled witliin my ear the crush 

Of empires, with the captive's prayer. 

The hum of suitors, and the tone 

Of flattery round a sovereign's throne. 

My passions, from that hapless hour, 

Ustuped a tyranny which men 
Have deemed, since I have reached to power, 
My innate nature ; be it so ; 

But, father, there lived one who, then. 
Then, in my boyhood, when their fire 


Burned with a still intenser glow 
(For passion must, with youth, expire) 
E'en then who knew this iron heart 
In woman's weakness had a part. 

I have no words, alas! to tell 
The loveliness of loving well ! 
Nor would I now attempt to trace 
The more than beauty of a face 
Whose lineaments, upon my mind, 
Are shadows on the tmstable wind: 
Thus I remember having dwelt 

Some page of early lore upon. 
With loitering eye, till I have felt 
The letters, with their meaning, melt 

To fantasies with none. 

Oh, she was worthy of all love ! 

Love, as in infancy, was mine ; 
'T was such as angel minds above 

Might envy ; her young heart the shrine 
On which my every hope and thought 

Were incense, then a goodly gift. 
For they were childish and upright, 
Pure as her yotmg example taught; 


Why did I leave it, and, adrift. 
Trust to the fire within for light ? 



We grew in age, and love, together. 
Roaming the forest and the wild; 

My breast her shield in wintry weather; 
And when the friendly sunshine smiledi 

And she would mark the opening skies, 

I saw no heaven but in her eyes. 

Young love's first lesson is the heart; 

For 'mid that sunshine and those smiles. 
When, from our little cares apart. 

And laughing at her girlish wiles, 
I 'd throw me on her throbbing breast. 

And pour my spirit out in tears, 
There was no need to speak the rest. 

No need to quiet any fears 
Of her, who ask'd no reason why, 
But turned on me her quiet eye. 

Yet more than worthy of the love 
My spirit struggled with, and strove. 
When, on the mountain peak, alone, 
Ambition lent it a new tone, 
I had no being but in thee ; 

The world, and all it did contain 
In the earth, the air, the sea, 

Its joy, its little lot of pain 
That was new pleasure, the ideal 

Dim vanities of dreams by night, 


Evening Star 


J) WAS noontide of summer 
And mid-time of night ; 
And stars, in their orbits. 
Shone pale through the light 
Of the brighter cold moon, 
'Hid planets her slaves, 
Herself in the heavens. 
Her beam on the waves. 
I gazed awhile 
Oo ber cold smile. 
Too cold, too cold for me ; 
There passed, as a shroud, 
A fleecy cloud, 
And I turned away to thee, 
Proud evening star. 
In thy glory afar. 
And dearer thy beam shall be; 
For joy to my heart 
Is the proud part 

Evening Star 

Thou bearest in heaven at night| 

And more I admire 

Thy distant fire 
Than that colder, lowly light 

VOL. 1.— 2. 


A Dream Within a Dream 


AKE this kiss upon the browl 
And, in parting from you noW) 
Thus much let me avow: 

Tou are not wrong, who deem 

That my days have been a dream; 

Yet if hope lias flown away 

In a night, or in a day. 

In a vision, or in none. 

Is it therefore the less gone? 

All that we see or seem 

Is but a dream within a dream. 

I stand amid the roar 
Of a surf-tormented shore, 
And I hold within my hand 
Grains of the golden sand — 
How few I yet how they creep 
Through my fingers to the deep, 

A Dream within a Dream 

WhUe I weep, while I weep! 
God I can I not i^rasp 
"niem with a tighter clasp? 
God I can I not save 
One from the pitiless wave? 
Is all that we see or seem 
But a dream within a dream? 

"In Youth have I Known One 
with whom the Earth" 

How often we forget ail time, wtien ione 
Admiring Nature's univeisai throne; 
Her woods, her wilds, her mountains, the inteuM 
Reply of hers to our intelligeitce t 

youth have I known one with whom the 

In secret communing held, as he with it, 
In daylight and in beauty from his birth ; 

Whose fervid, flickering torch of life was lit 
From the sun and stars, whence he had drawn forth 

A passionate light — such for his spirit was fit; 
And yet that spirit knew not, in the hour 
Of its own fervor, what had o'er it power. 


Perhaps it may be that my mind is wrought 
To 8 fever by the moonbeam that hangs o'er, 



In Youth Have I Known One** 

But I will half believe that wild light fraught 
With more of sovereignty than ancient lore 

Hath ever told ; or is it of a thought 
The unembodied essence and no more. 

That with a quickening spell doth o'er us pass 

As dew of the night-time o'er the stmmier grass? 

Doth o'er us pass, when, as the expanding eye 

To the loved object, so the tear to the lid 
Will start, which lately slept in apathy. 

And yet it need not be — that object — hid 
From us in life, but common — which doth lie 

Each hour before us — but then only bid 
With a strange sotmd, as of a harp-string broken, 
To awake us. 'T is a symbol and a token 

Of what in other worlds shall be, and given 

In beauty by our God to those alone 
Who otherwise would fall from life and heaven. 

Drawn by their heart's passion, and that tone, 
That high tone of the spirit which hath striven 

Though not with faith, with godliness, whose throne 
With desperate energy 't hath beaten down ; 
Wearing its own deep feeling as a crown. 



A Dream 

R visions of the dark night 

I have dreamed of joy departed; 
But a waking dream of life and light 

Hath left me broken-hearted. 

Ah I what is not a dream by day 

To him whose eyes are cast 
On things around him, with a ray 

Turned back upon the past? 

That holy dream, that holy dream, 

While all the world were chiding, 
Hath cheered me as a lovely beam 

A lonely spirit guiding. 

What though that light, through storm and night, 

So trembled from afar, 
What could there be more purely bright 

In Truth's day-star ? 

"The Happiest Day, the 
Happiest Hour" 


HE happiest day, the happiest hour 

Hy seared and blighted heart hath knovn, 
The highest hope of pride and power, 

I feel hath Sown. 

Of power, said I ? Yes, such I ween ; 

But they have vanished long, alas t 
The visions of my youth have been — 

But let them pass. 

And pride, what have I now with thee? 

Another brow may even inherit 
The venom thou hast poured on me ; 

Be still, my spirit ! 

The happiest day, the happiest hour 
Mine eyes shall see — have ever seeiif 

" The Happiest Day, the Happiest Hour " 

T^ brightest glance of pride and power, 
I feel have been ; 

But were that hope of pride and power 

How offered with the pain 
Even then I felt, that brightest hour 

I would not live again. 

For on its wing was darli alloy, 

And, as it fluttered, fell 
An essence powerful to destroy 

A soul that knew it well. 

The Lake. To 

HT spring of youth it was my lot 
To haunt of the wide world a spot 
The which I could not love the less, 
So lovely was the loneliness 
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound, 
And the tall pines that towered around. 

But when the night had thrown her pall 

Upon that spot, as upon all. 

And the mystic wind went by, 

Hurmuring in melody, 

llien, ah I then I would awake 

To the terror of the lone lake. 

Yet that terror was not fright, 
But a tremulous deUght ; 

The Lake. To - 

A feeling not the jewelled mine 
Could teach or bribe me to define, 
nor lore, although the love were thine. 

Death was in that poisonous wave, 

And in its gulf a fitting grave 

For him who thence could solace bring 

To his lone imagining — 

Whose solitary soul could make 

An Eden of that dim lake. 

Sonnet: To Science 

ICIENCE 1 true daughter of old Time thou art, 
Who alterest all things with thy peering 
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart. 

Vulture, whose wings are dull re^dities ? 
How should he love thee, or how deem thee wise, 

Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering 
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies. 

Albeit he soared with an imdaunted wing 7 
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car, 

And driven the hamadryad from the wood 
To seek a shelter in some happier star ? 

Hast thou not torn the naiad from her flood, 
The elfin from the green grass, and from me 
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree ? 

Al Aaraaf ' 


HI nothing earthly save the ray 

(Thrown back from flowers) of Beauty's ejOt 
As in those gardens where the day 
Springs from the gems of Circassy : 
Oh ! nothing earthly save the thrill 
Of melody in woodland rill; 
Or (music of the passion-hearted) 
Joy's voice so peacefully departed 
That, like the murmur in the shell, 
Its echo dwelleth and will dwell : 
Oh ! nothing of the dross of ours. 
Yet all the beauty, all the flowers 
That list our love and deck our bowers 
Adorn yon world afar, afar, 
The wandering star. 

' A Iter wu dUcoTeiad by Tycho Bnlic, wl 

h«AV«iii, Atljdilcd la ■ few (Uyv h brillii 
u luddenly diuppeand. and hu never 

Al Aaraaf 

^ was a sweet time for Nesace ; for there 
Her world lay lolling on the golden air. 
Near four bright suns, a temporary rest. 
An oasis in desert of the blest. 
Away, away, 'mid seas of rays that roll 
Empyrean splendor o'er the unchained soul, — 
The soul that scarce (the billows are so dense) 
Can struggle to its destined eminence, — 
To distant spheres, from time to time, she rode. 
And late to ours, the favored one of God ; 
But now, the ruler of an anchor'd realm. 
She throws aside the sceptre, leaves the helm. 
And, amid incense and high spiritual h]mms. 
Laves in quadruple light her angel limbs. 

Now happiest, loveliest in yon lovely earth. 
Whence sprang the " Idea of Beauty " into birth 
(Falling in wreaths through many a startled star. 
Like woman's hair 'mid pearls, until, afar. 
It lit on hills Achaian and there dwelt). 
She look'd into infinity, and knelt. 
Rich clouds, for canopies, about her curled. 
Fit emblems of the model of her world. 
Seen but in beauty, not impeding sight 
Of other beauty glittering through the light — 
A wreath that twined each starry form around, 
And all the opaled air in color bound. 



From the sun that round me rolled 
In its autumn tint of gold; 
From the Ughtning in the sky 
As it passed me flying by ; 
From the thunder and the storm ; 
And the cloud that took the form 
(When the rest of heaven was blue) 
Of a demon in my view. 


To Helen 

lELEN, th7 beauty is to me 

Like those Nicean barks of yore. 
That gently, o'er a perfumed stta. 
The weary, wayworn wanderer bore 
To his own native shore. 

On desperate seas long wont to roam, 
Thy hyacinth hair, thy clasnc face, 

Thy naiad airs have brought me home 
To the glory that was Greece 

And the grandeur that was Rome. 

lol in yon brilliant window-niche 
How statue-like I see thee stand, 
The agate lamp within thy hand, 

Ah] Psyche, from the regions which 
Are Holy Landl 


H, broken is the golden bowl I the spirit flown 
forever t 
Let the bell toll I a saintly soul floats on the 
Stygian river; 
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear ? weep now or 

never morel 
See on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore I 
Come I let the burial rite be read, the funeral song be 

An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so 

A dirge for her, the doubly dead in that she died so 

" Wretches I ye loved her for her wealth and hated 

ber for her pride, 
And when she felt in feeble health, ye blessed her — 

that she died! 
How shall the ritual, then, be read ? the requiem how 

be sung 



By you, by yours, the evil eye, by yours, the slander- 
ous tongue 

That did to death the innocence that died, and died so 
young ? " 

Peccavimusf but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song 
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel no wrong ! 
The sweet Lenore hath gone before, with Hope, that 

flew beside. 
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have 

been thy bride — 
For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies, 
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes ; 
The life still there, upon her hair, the death upon her 


" Avaunt! to-night my heart is light; no dirge will I 

But waft the angel on her flight with a paean of old 

days ! 
Let no bell toll! lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed 

Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the 

AaxnnhA earth. 
To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant 

ghost is riven, 
From hell unto a high estate far up within the heaven — 
From grief and groan to a golden throne, beside the 

King of heaven." 


The Valley of Unrest 

NCE it smiled a silent dell 
Where the people did aot dwell; 
They had gone unto the wars, 
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars, 
Nightly from their azure towers, 
To keep watch above the flowers, 
In the midst of which all day 
The red sunlight lazily lay. 
Now each visitor shall confess 
The sad valley's restlessness. 
Nothing there is motionless, 
Nothing save the airs that brood 
Over the magic solitude. 
Ah, by no wind are stirred those tcees 
That palpitate like the chill seas 

The Valley of Unrest 

Around the misty Hebrides ) 

Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven 

That rustle through the unquiet heaven 

Uneasily, from mom till even, 

Over the violets there that lie 

In mjrriad types of the human eye — 

Over the lilies there that wave 

And weep above a nameless gravel 

They wave ; from out their fragrant tops 

Eternal dews come down in drops. 

They weep ; from off their delicate stems 

Perennial tears descend in gems. 

The City in the Sea 

nOl Death has reared himself a throne 

In a strange city lying alone 

Far down within the dim west 
Where the good and the bad and the worst and the best 
Have gone to their eternal rest. 
There shrines and palaces and towers 
(Time-eaten towers that tremble noti) 
Resemble nothing that is ours. 
Around, by lifting winds forgot, 
Resignedly beneath the sky 
The melancholy waters lie. 

No rays from the holy heaven come down 
On the long night-time of that town ; 
But light from out the lurid sea 
Streams up the turrets silently, 
Gleams up the pinnacles far and free, 
Up domes, up spires, up kingly halls, 
Up fanes, up Babylon-like walls, 


"While rrom s proud lower in the i 
Death looks gigimiicdly down." 

The City in the Sea 

Up shadowy long-forgotten bowers 
Of sculptured ivy and stone flowers. 
Up many and many a marvellous shrine 
Whose wreathM friezes intertwine 
The viol| the violet, and the vine. 
Resignedly beneath the sky 
The melancholy waters lie. 
So blend the turrets and shadows there 
That all seem pendulous in air. 
While from a proud tower in the town 
Death looks gigantically down. 

There open fanes and gaping graves 
Yawn level with the luminous waves; 
But not the riches there that lie 
In each idol's diamond eye. 
Not the gayly-jcwelled dead 
Tempt the waters from their bed; 
For no ripples curl, alas! 
Along that wilderness of glass; 
No swellings tell that winds may be 
Upon some far-off happier sea; 
No heavings hint that winds have been 
On seas less hideously serene. 

But lo, a stir is in the air! 
The wave — there is a movement there I 
As if the towers had thrust aside. 
In slightly sinking, the dull tide ; 


The City in the Sea 

As if their tops had feebly given 
A void within the filmy heaven. 
Tbt waves have now a redder glow; 
Hie hours are breathing faint and low; 
And when, amid no earthly moans, 
Down, down that town shall settle bencst 
Hell, rising from a thousand thrones, 
Shah do it reverence. 

The Sleeper 

r midnight, in the month of June. 

I stand beneath the mjrstic moon. 

An opiate vapor, dewy, dim, 
Exhales from out her golden rim, 
And, softly dripping, drop by drop, 
Upon the quiet mountain top, 
Steals drowsily and musically 
Into the universal valley. 
The rosemary nods upon the grave; 
The lily lolls upon the wave; 
Wrapping the fog about its breast, 
The ruin moulders into rest; 
Looking like Lethe, see I the lake 
A conscious slumber seems to take, 
And would not, for the world, awake. 
All beauty sleeps! and lo! where lies 
(Her casement open to the skies) 
Irene, with her destiniesi 

The Sleeper 

Oh, lady bright I can it be right — 
This window open to the night ? 
The wanton airs, from the tree-top. 
Laughingly through the lattice drop; 
The bodiless airs, a wizard rout. 
Flit through thy chamber in and out. 
And wave the curtain canopy 
So fitfully, so fearfully. 
Above the closed and fringed lid 
'Neath which thy slumb'ring soul lies hid. 
That, o'er the floor and down the wall, 
Like ghosts the shadows rise and fall! 
Oh, lady dear, hast thou no fear ? 
Why and what art thou dreaming here ? 
Sure thou art come o'er far-off seas, 
A wonder to these garden trees! 
Strange is thy pallor! strange thy dress I 
Strange, above all, thy length of tress. 
And this all-solemn silentnessl 

The lady sleeps I Oh, may her sleep. 
Which is enduring, so be deep! 
Heaven have her in its sacred keep ! 
This chamber changed for one more holy. 
This bed for one more melancholy, 
I pray to God that she may lie 
Forever with unopened eye. 
While the dim sheeted ghosts go by! 


The Sleeper 

liy love, she sleeps! Oh, may her sleep. 

As it is lasting, so be deep I 

Soft may the worms about her creep I 

Far in the forest, dim and old, 

For her may some tall vault unfold — 

Some vault that oft hath flung its black 

And winged panels fluttering back. 

Triumphant, o'er the crested palls. 

Of her grand family funerals ; 

Some sepulchre, remote, alone. 

Against whose portal she hath thrown, 

In childhood, many an idle stone ; 

Some tomb from out whose soimding door 

She ne'er shall force an echo more. 

Thrilling to think, poor child of sin I 

It was the dead who groaned within. 

VOU 1.— 5. 



~ft /^ heaven a spiiit Aofb dwell 
\^^ " Whose heart-strings are a lute ** ; 
iL^^ 1 iTone sing so wildly well 
As the angel Israfel, 
And the giddy stars (so legends tell) 
Ceasing their hymns, attend the spell 

Of bis voice, all mute. 
Tottering above 

Itt her highest noon. 

The enamored moon 
Blushes with love, 

While, to listen, the red levin 

(With the rapid Pleiads, even, 

Which were seven) 

Pauses in heaven. 

And they say (the starry choir 
And the other listening things) 

And tha >de«] Iirifcl. «ho» heart-nrinci ar* ■ hita, and who tau tb* 


That Israf eli's fire 
Is owing to that Ijrre 

By which he sits and singa^* 
The trembling living wire 

Of those unusual strings. 

But the skies that angel trod. 
Where deep thoughts are a duty, 

Where Love 's a grown-up God, 

Where the Houri glances are 
Imbued with all the beauty 

Which we worship in a star. 

Therefore thou art not wrong, 

Israfeli, who despisest 
An unimpassioned song; 
To thee the laurels belong, 

Best bard, because the wisest I 
Merrily live, and long I 

The ecstasies above 

With thy burning measures suit; 
Thy grief, thy joy, thy hate, thy love. 

With the fervor of thy lute ; 

Well may the stars be mute I 

Yes, heaven is thine ; but this 
Is a world of sweets and sours; 


Our flowers are merely flowers. 
And the shadow of thy perfect bliss 
Is the sunshine of ours. 

If I could dwell 
Where Israfel 

Hath dwelt, and he where I, 
He might not sing so wildly well 

A mortal melody, 
While a bolder note than this might swell 

From my lyre within the sky. 

The Coliseum 


YPE of the antique Rome! Rich reliqumy 
Of lofty coutemplation left to time 
By buried ceuturies of pomp and power I 
At length, at length, after so many days 
Of weary pilgrimage and burning thirst 
(Thirst for the springs of lore that in thee lie), 
I kneel, an altered and an humble man, 
Amid thy shadows, and so drink within 
Uy very soul thy grandeur, gloom, and glory 1 

Vastness, and age, and memories of eld. 
Silence, and desolation, and dim night, 
I feel ye now, 1 feel ye in your strength ; 
O spells more sure than e'er Judsan king 
Taught in the gardens of Gethsemane 1 
charms more potent than the rapt Chaldee 
Ever drew down from out the quiet stars I 

Here, where a hero fell, a column falls 1 
Here, where a mimic eagle glared in gold, 
A midnight vigil holds the swarthy bat ! 
Here, where the dames of Rome their gilded hair 

The Coliseum 

Waved to the wind, now wave the reed and thistle I 

Here, where on golden throne the monarch lolled. 

Glides, spectre-like, trnto his marble home, 

Lit by the wan light of the horned moon, 

The swift and silent lizard of the stones! 

But stay ! these walls, these ivy-clad arcades, 

These mouldering plinths, these sad and blackened 

These vague entablatures, this cnmibling frieze. 
These shattered cornices, this wreck, this ruin. 
These stones — alas I these gray stones — are they all, 
All of the famed and the colossal left 
By the corrosive hours to fate and me ? 

" Not all," the echoes answer me, " not all I 
Prophetic sotmds and loud arise forever 
From us, and from all ruin, unto the wise. 
As melody from Menmon to the stm. 
We rule the hearts of mightiest men; we rule 
With a despotic sway all giant minds. 
We are not impotent, we pallid stones. 
Not all our power is gone, not all our fame^ 
Not all the magic of our high renown. 
Not all the wonder that encircles us. 
Not all the mysteries that in us lie. 
Not all the memories that hang upon 
And cling arotmd about us as a garment, 
Clothing us in a robe of more than glory." 


"FoiaUul ulu! with me 
The light o(Li(ii.o'a-l" 

To One in Paradise 

Hon wast that all to me, love, 
For which my soul did pine — 
A green isle in the sea, love, 
A fountain and a shrine, 
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers, 
And all the flowers were mine. 

Ah, dream too bright to last I 
Ah, starry hope, that didst arise 

But to be overcast I 
A voice from out the future cries, 

*' Onl onl " but o*er the past 

(Dim gulf I) my spirit hovering lies 

Hute, motionless, aghast) 

For, alas I alasl with me 

Tht light of life is o'er I 

" No more—no more — no more — " 
(Such lai^uage holds the solemn sea 

To One in Paradise 

To the sands upon the shore) 
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree, 
Or the stricken eagle soar! 

And all my days are trances, 
And all my nightly dreams 

Are where thy dark eye glances, 
And where thy footstep gleams, 

In what ethereal dances, 
By what eternal streams. 



mom, at noon, at twilight dim, 
Haria ! thou hast heard my hymn I 
In joy and woe, in good and ill, 

Mother of God, be with me still I 

When the hours flew brightly by, 

And not a cloud obscured the sky, 

My soul, lest it should truant be, 

Thy grace did guide to thine and thee; 

Now, when storms of fate o'ercast 

Darkly my present and my past, 

Let my future radiant shine 

With sweet hopes of thee and thine I 

To F- 

GLOVED ) amid the earnest woes 

That crowd around my earthly path 
(Drear path, alas I where grows 
Not even one lonely rose) 

My soul at least a solace hath 
In dreams of thee, and therein knows 
An Eden of bland repose. 

And thus thy memory is to me 

Like some enclianted far-off isle 
In some tumultuous sea, 
Some ocean throbbing far and free 

With storms, but where meanwhile 
Sereoest skies continually 

Just o'er that one bright island smile. 

To F S S. O D 

Hon wouldst be loved ? then let thy heart 
From its present pathway port not 1 
Being everything which now thou art, 
Be nothing which thou art not. 
So with the world thy gentle ways, 
Thy grace, thy more than beauty, 
Shall be an endless theme of praise 
And love a simple du^. 

Scenes from "Politian" 


ROUE. A HaU !□ ■ Ptixct. Alnundia and CuUeUoim. 

Aleasaadra. Thou ait sad, Castiglione. 

Castighone. Sad ? not I. 
Oh, I 'm the happiest, happiest man in Romel 
A few days more, thou knowest, my Alessandra, 
Will make thee mine. Oh, I am very happy I 

Aless. Hethinks thou hast a singular way of show- 
Thy happiness I what ails thee, cousin of mine 7 
Why didst thou sigh so deeply ? 

Cas. Did I sigh ? 
I was not conscious of it. It is a fashion, 
A silly, a most silly fashion I have 
When I am very happy. Did I sigh ? (aigblog) 

Scenes from "Politian" 

Aless, Thou didst. Thou art not well. Thou hast 
Too much of late, and I am vexed to see it. 
Late hours and wine, Castiglione, these 
Will nun thee I thou art already altered; 
Thy looks are haggard ; nothing so wears away 
The constitution as late hours and wine. 

Cas0 (musing) Nothing, fair cousin, nothing, not 
even deep sorrow. 
Wears it away like evil hours and wine; 
I will amend. 

Aless, Do it! I would have thee drop 
Thy riotous company, too — ^fellows low bom 
111 suit the like with old Di Broglio's heir 
And Alessandra's husband. 
Cas, I will drop them. 

Aless, Thou wilt — ^thou must. Attend thou also 
To thy dress and equipage ; they are overplain 
For thy lofty rank and fashion; much depends 
Upon appearances. 

Cas, I 'U see to it. 

Aless, Then see to it! pay more attention, sir, 
To a becoming carriage ; much thou wantest 
In dignity. 

Cas, Much, much, oh, much I want 
In proper dignity. 


Scenes from "Politian" 

Aless0 (baugbtUy) Thou mockest me, sir! 

Cas, (abstractedly) Sweet, gentle Lalage! 

Aless, Heard I aright? 
I speak to him — ^he speaks of Lalage! 
Sir Count I {places bet band on bis sboulder) What 

art thou dreaming ? he 's not well! 
What ails thee, sir ? 

Cas0 (starting) Cousin! fair cousin! madam! 
I crave thy pardon — indeed I am not well; 
Yotu: hand from off my shoulder, if you please. 
This air is most oppressive! Madam — ^the Dukel 

Enter Di Broglio 

Di Broglio, 'NLj son, I 've news for thee ! — ^hey, 
what 's the matter ? (observing Alessandra) 
V the pouts ? Kiss her, Castiglione ! kiss her. 
You dog ! and make it up, I say, this minute i 
I 've news for you both. Politian is expected 
Hourly in Rome; Politian, Earl of Leicester! 
We 'U have him at the wedding. 'T is his first visit 
To the imperial city. 

Aless, What! Politian 
Of Britain, Earl of Leicester ? 

Di Brog, The same, my love. 
We '11 have him at the wedding. A man quite young 
[n years, but gray in fame. I have not seen him, 
But Rumor speaks of him as of a prodigy 


Scenes from "Politian" 

Pre-eminent in arts, and armsy and wealth. 

And high descent. We '11 have him at the wedding. 

Aless, I have heard much of this Politian. 
Gay, volatile, and giddy, is he not ? 
And little given to thinking. 

Di Brog* Far from it, love. 
No branch, they say, of all philosophy 
So deep abstruse he has not mastered it. 
Learned as few are learned. 

Aless, 'T is very strange I 
I have known men have seen PoUtian 
And sought his company. They speak of him 
As of one who entered madly into life. 
Drinking the cup of pleasure to the dregs. 

Ca80 Ridiculous I Now I have seen Politian 
And know him well; nor learned nor mirthful he. 
He is a dreamer and a man shut out 
From common passions. 

Di Brog, Children, we disagree. 
Let us go forth and taste the fragrant air 
Of the garden. Did I dream, or did I hear 
Politian was a melancholy man 7 {exeunt) 


Scenes from "Politian" 


ROME. A Lady's apartment, with a window open and looking into a gar- 
den. Lalage, in deep mourning, reading at a table on which He some 
books and a hand mirror. In the background Jacinta (a servant maid) 
leans carelessly upon a chair. 

Lalagc* Jacinta! is it thou ? 
Jacinta, {pertly) Yes, ma'am, I 'm here. 
LaL I did not know, Jacinta, you were in waiting. 
Sit down! let not my presence trouble you; 
Sit down I for I am humble, most humble. 
Jaa {aside) 'T is time. 

(Jacinta seats lierselfin a sidelong manner upon 
the chair, resting her elbows upon the back, 
and regarding her mistress with a contempt' 
tuous look Lalage continues to read) 
LaL *^ It in another climate," so he said, 
Bore a bright golden flower, but not i' this soil! " 

{pauses — turns over some leaves, and resumes) 
*^ No lingering winters there, nor snow, nor shower. 
But Ocean ever, to refresh mankind. 
Breathes the shrill spirit of the western wind.'' 
Oh, beautiful! most beautiful! how like 
To what my fevered soul doth dream of heaven I 
O happy land! {pauses) She died! the maiden diedl 
O still more happy maiden who couldst die! 

{Jadnta returns no answer, and Lalage prtB^ 
ently resumes,) 


Scenes from "Politian" 

Again! a siniilar tale 

Told of a beauteous dame beyond the seal 

Thus speaketh one Ferdinand in the words of the play : 

*^ She died full young " ; one Bossola answers him : 

*^ I think not so — her infelicity 

Seemed to have years too many." — ^Ah, luckless lady I 

Jacintal (still no answer) 

Here 's a far sterner story. 
But like — oh, very like in its despair — 
Of that Egyptian queen, winning so easily 
A thousand hearts; losing at length her own. 
She died. Thus endeth the history ; and her maids 
Lean over her and weep — ^two gentle maids 
With gentle names, Eiros and Charmion! 
Rainbow and Dove ! Jacinta I 

/ac (pettishly) Madam, what is it ? 

LaL Wilt thou, my good Jacinta, be so kind 
As go down in the library and bring me 
The Holy Evangelists. 

Jac, Pshaw! (exit) 

Lai If there be balm 

For the wounded spirit in Gilead it is there! 
Dew in the night-time of my bitter trouble 
Will there be found — " dew sweeter far than that 
Which hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon Hill.'' 

(Re-enter Jacinta, and throws a volume on the 

VOL. I.— €. gj 

Scenes from "Politian" 

There, ma'am, 's the book. Indeed she is very trouble- 
some, (aside) 

LaL {astonished) What didst thou say, Jacinta ? 
Have I done aught 
To grieve thee or to vex thee ? I am sorry. 
For thou hast served me long and ever been 
Trustworthy and respectful, (resumes tier reading) 

Jaa I can't believe 
She has any more jewels ; no, no, she gave me all. 


LaL What didst thou say, Jacinta ? Now I be- 
think me 
Thou hast not spoken lately of thy wedding. 
How fares good Ugo ? and when is it to be ? 
Can I do aught ? is there no further aid 
Thou needest, Jacinta ? 

Jaa Is there no further aid! 
That 's meant for me. (aside) I 'm sure, madam, 

you need not 
Be always throwing those jewels in my teeth. 

LaL Jewels ? Jacinta, — now indeed, Jacinta, 
I thought not of the jewels. 

Jaa Oh, perhaps not ; 
But then I might have sworn it. After all, 
There 's Ugo says the ring is only paste. 
For he 's sure the Count Castiglione never 
Would have given a real diamond to such as you; 


Scenes from "Politian'* 

And at the best I 'm certain, madam, you cannot 
Have use for jewels now. But I might have sworn it. 

(Lalage bursts into tears and leans her bead 
upon the table f after a short pause raises it) 
Lai Poor Lalage I and is it come to this ? 
Thy servant maid! but courage! 't is but a viper 
Whom thou hast cherished to sting thee to the soul I 

(taking up the mirror) 
Hal here at least 's a friend — ^too much a friend 
In earlier days; a friend will not deceive thee. 
Fair mirror and true, now tell me (for thou canst) 
A tale, a pretty tale, and heed thou not 
Though it be rife with woe. It answers me. 
It speaks of stmken eyes, and wasted cheeks. 
And Beauty long deceased — remembers me 
Of Joy departed ; Hope, the Seraph Hope, 
Inumed and entombed ; now, in a tone 
Low, sad, and solemn, but most audible. 
Whispers of early grave untimely yawning 
For ruined maid. Fair mirror and true, thou liest not I 
Thou hast no end to gain, no heart to break; 
Castiglione lied who said he loved — 
Thou true, he false I false ! false ! 

( While she speaks, a monk enters her apart'^ 
ment, and approaches unobserved.) 
Monk Refuge thou hast. 
Sweet daughter, in heaven. Think of eternal things ; 


Scenes from "Politian" 

Give up thy soul to penitence, and pray! 

Lai {arising hurriedly) I cannot pray! My soul 
is at war with God! 
The frightful sounds of merriment below 
Disturb my senses; go! I cannot pray; 
The sweet airs from the garden worry me ; 
Thy presence grieves me : go ! thy priestly raiment 
Fills me with dread ; thy ebony crucifix 
With horror and awe! 

Monk Think of thy precious soul i 

LaL Think of my early days i think of my father 
And mother in heaven; think of our quiet home, 
And the rivulet that ran before the door; 
Think of my little sisters; think of them! 
And think of me ! — think of my trusting love 
And confidence — ^his vows — my ruin — ^think, think 
Of my unspeakable misery! begone! 
Yet stay, yet stay, what was it thou saidst of prayer 
And penitence ? Didst thou not speak of faith 
And vows before the throne ? 

Monk I did. 

Lai 'T is well. 
There is a vow were fitting should be made — 
A sacred vow, imperative and urgent, 
A solemn vow! 

Monk Daughter, this zeal is well! 

Lai Father, this zeal is any thing but well I 
Hast thou a crucifix fit for this thing! 


Scenes from "Politian" 

A crucifix whereon to register 

This sacred vow ? (be bands bet bis own) 

Not that — oh, no! no! no! (sbuddering) 

Not that, not that! I tell thee, holy man, 

Thy raiments and thy ebony cross affright me! 

Stand back! I have a crucifix myself, 

I have a crucifix! Methinks 't were fitting 

The deed, the vow, the sjrmbol of the deed. 

And the deed's register should tally, father! 

(draws a cross'^bandled dagger and raises it on 

Behold the cross wherewith a vow like mine 
Is written in he&ven! 

Monk Thy words are madness, daughter. 
And speak a purpose imholy ; thy lips are livid, 
Thine eyes are wild; tempt not the wrath divine 1 
Pause ere too late! oh, be not, be not rash! 
Swear not the oath, oh, swear it not! 

LaL 'T is sworn! 


An A|»artmeiit in a Palace. Politian and Baldazzar. 

Baldazzar, Arouse thee now, Politian! 
Thou must not — nay, indeed, indeed, thou shalt not 
Give way unto these humors. Be thyself! 
Shake off the idle fancies that beset thee. 
And live, for now thou diest! 

Politian. Not so, Baldazzar! 
Surely I live. 


Scenes from "Politian*' 

BaL Politiaiii it doth grieve me 
To see thee thus. 

Pol Baldazzar, it doth grieve me 
To give thee cause for grief, my honored friend* 
Command me, sir! what wouldst thou have me do ? 
At thy behest I will shake off that nature 
Which from my forefathers I did inheriti 
Which with my mother's milk I did imbibe, 
And be no more Politian, but some other. 
Command me, sir! 

BaL To the field then ; to the field ; 
To the senate or the field. 

PoL Alas! alas! 
There is an imp would follow me even there I 
There is an imp hath followed me even there I 
There is what voice was that ? 

BaL I heard it not. 
I heard not any voice except thine own, 
And the echo of thine own. 

PoL Then I but dreamed. 

BaL Give not thy soul to dreams: the camp, the 
Befit thee ; Fame awaits thee — Glory calls — 
And her the trumpet-tongued thou wilt not hear 
In hearkening to imaginary sounds 
And phantom voices. 

PoL It is a phantom voice ! 

Didst thou not hear it then ? 


Scenes from "Politian** 

BaL I heard it not. 

PoL Thou heardst it not ? BaldazzaTi speak no 
To me, Politian, of thy camps and courts. 
Oh! I am sick, sick, sick, even unto death. 
Of the hollow and high-sounding vanities 
Of the populous earth! Bear with me yet a while I 
We have been boys together ; school-fellows ; 
And now are friends, yet shall not be so long; 
For in the eternal city thou shalt do me 
A kind and gentle office, and a Power — 
A Power august, benignant, and supreme — 
Shall then absdlve thee of all further duties 
TJnto thy friend. 

Bal Thou speakest a fearful riddle 
I will not understand. 

Pol Yet now as fate 
Approaches, and the hours are breathing low. 
The sands of time are changed to golden grains. 
And dazzle me, Baldazzar. Alas! alas! 
I cannot die, having within my heart 
So keen a relish for the beautiful 
As has been kindled within it. Methinks the air 
Is balmier now than it was wont to be ; 
Rich melodies are floating in the winds, 
A rarer loveliness bedecks the earth. 
And with a holier lustre the quiet moon 
Sitteth in heaven. — Hist ! hist ! thou canst not say 


Scenes from "Politian" 

Thou hearest not now, Baldazzar ? 
BaL Indeed I hear not. 

Pol Not hear it I listen now, listen! the faintest 
And yet the sweetest that ear ever heard I 
A lady's voicei and sorrow in the tone I 
Baldazzar, it oppresses me like a spell I 
Again! again! how solemnly it falls 
Into my heart of hearts! that eloquent voice 
Surely I never heard ; yet it were well 
Had I but heard it with its thrilling tones 
In earlier days! 

Bal I myself hear it now. 
Be still! the voice, if I mistake not greatly, 
Proceeds from yonder lattice which you may see 
Very plainly through the window; it belongs, 
Does it not ? unto this palace of the Duke. 
The singer is undoubtedly beneath 
The roof of his Excellency ; and perhaps 
Is even that Alessandra of whom he spoke 
As the betrothed of Castiglione, 
His son and heir. 
PoL Be still! it comes again! 
Voice {very faintly) 

" And is thy heart so strong 
As tor to leave me thus 
Who bath loved thee so long 
In wealth and woe among f 


Scenes from " Politian ** 

Aocf is thy heart so strong 
As lor to leare me tbusf 

Say nay — say nayl '* 
Bat The song is Englishi and I oft have heard it 
In merry England — ^never so plaintively. 
Hist! hist! it comes again! 
Voice (more loudly) 

"Is it so strong 
As tor to leave me ttius 
Who hath loved thee so long^ 
In wealth and woe among/ 
And is thy heart so strong 
As for to leave me thus? 

Say nay — say nayl '• 
Bal. 'T is hushed and all is still! 
PoL All is not still. 
BaL Let us go down. 
Pol Go down, Baldazzar, go! 
BaL The hour is growing late; the Duke awaits 


Thy presence is expected in the hall 
Below. What ails thee, Earl Politian ? 
Voice {distinctly) 

" Who hath loved thee so long. 
In wealth and woe among, 
And is thy heart so strong? 

Say nay — say nayl '^ 
BaL Let us descend; 't is time. PolitiaUi give 


Scenes from "Politian" 

These fancies to the wind. Jtememberi pray, 
Your bearing lately savored nmch of rudeness 
Unto the Duke. Arouse thee, and remember! 

PoL Remember ? I do. Lead on! I do remem- 
ber, {going) 
Let us descend. Believe me, I would give. 
Freely would give, the broad lands of my earldom 
To look upon the face hidden by yon lattice — 
^^ To gaze upon that veiled face, and hear 
Once more that silent tongue." 

BaL Let me beg you, sir. 
Descend with me; the Duke may be offended. 
Let us go down, I pray .you. 

( Voice loudly) Say nay I — say nay I 

PoL (aside) *T is strange, *t is very strange ; me- 
thought the voice 
Chimed in with my desires and bade me stay! 

(approaching the window) 
Sweet voice! I heed thee, and will surely stay. 
Now be this fancy, by heaven, or be it fate, 
Still will I not descend. Baldazzar, make 
Apology unto the Duke for me ; 
I go not down to-night. 

BaL Your lordship's pleasure 
Shall be attended to. Good night, Politian. 

PoL Good night, my friend, good night. 


Scenes from "Politian" 


The Gardens of a Palace. MoonHi^t Lalage and Fofitiaik 

Lalage, And dost thou speak of love 
To me, Politian ? dost thou speak of love 
To Lalage ? ah, woe! ah, woe is me! 
This mockery is most cruel| most cruel indeed 1 

Politian, Weep not I oh, sob not thus ! thy bitter 
Will madden me. Oh, mourn not, Lalage; 
Be comforted! I know, I know it all, 
And still I speak of love. Look at me, brightest 
And beautiful Lalage! turn here thine eyes! 
Thou askest me if I could speak of love. 
Knowing what I know, and seeing what I have seen. 
Thou askest me that, and thus I answer thee. 
Thus on my bended knee I answer thee. {Imeeling) 
Sweet Lalage, I love thee, love thee, love thee! 
Thro' good and ill, thro' weal and woe I love thee! 
Not mother, with her first-bom on her knee, 
Thrills with intenser love than I for thee. 
Not on God's altar, in any time or clime. 
Burned there a holier fire than bumeth now 
Within my spirit for thee. And do I love ? {arising) 
Even for thy woes I love thee, even for thy woes, 
Thy beauty and thy woes. 

Lai Alas, proud Earl, 
Thou dost forget thjrself, remembering me I 


Scenes from "Politian** 

HoW| in thy father's halls, among the maidens 

Pure and reproachless of thy princely line, 

Could the dishonored Lalage abide ? 

Thy wife, and with a tainted memory — 

Hy seared and blighted name, how would it tally 

With the ancestral honors of thy house, 

And with thy glory ? 

PoL Speak not to me of glory! 
I hate, I loathe the name ! I do abhor 
The unsatisfactory and ideal thing. 
Art thou not Lalage and I Politian ? 
Do I not love ? art thou not beautiful? 
What need we more ? Ha! glory! now speak not of 

By all I hold most sacred and most solemn; 
By all my wishes now, my fears hereafter; 
By all I scorn on earth and hope in heaven, 
There is no deed I would more glory in 
Than in thy cause to scoff at this same glory 
And trample it under foot. What matters it, 
What matters it, my fairest and my best. 
That we go down unhonored and forgotten 
Into the dust, so we descend together ? 
Descend together, and then — and then perchance — 

LaL Why dost thou pause, Politian ? 

PoL And then perchance 
Arise together, Lalage, and roam 
The starry and quiet dwellings of the blest, 


Scenes from "Politian*' 


LaL Why dost thou pause, Politian ? 

Pol And still together — together. 

Lai* NoW| Earl of Leicester ! 
Thou lovest me, and in my heart of hearts 
I feel thou lovest me truly. 

PoL Oh,Lalage! (throwing himself upon bis knee) 
And lovest thou me ? 

LaL Hist ! hush ! within the gloom 
Of yonder trees methought a figure passed — 
A spectral figure, solemn, and slow, and noiseless — 
Like the grim shadow Conscience, solemn and noise- 
less, (walks across and returns) 
I was mistaken ; 't was but a giant bough 
Stirred by the autumn wind. Politian! 

PoL Hy Lalage, my love I why art thou moved ? 
Why dost thou turn so pale ? Not Conscience' self, 
Far less a shadow which thou likenest to it. 
Should shake the firm spirit thus. But the night wind 
Is chilly, and these melancholy boughs 
Throw over all things a gloom. 

LaL Politian, 
Thou speakest to me of love. Knowest thou the land 
With which all tongues are busy — a land new found, 
Miraculously found by one of Genoa, 
A thousand leagues within the golden west ? 
A fairy land of flowers, and fruit, and sunshine, 
And crystal lakes, and overarching forests, 


Scenes from "Politian" 

And mountainsi around whose towering summits the 

Of heaven untrammelled flow, which air to breathe 
Is happiness now, and will be f reedoni hereafter 
In days that are to come ? 

Pol Oh, wilt thou, wilt thou 
Fly to that paradise ? my Lalage, wilt thou 
Fly thither with me ? There care shall be forgotten, 
And sorrow shall be no more, and Eros be all. 
And life shall then be mine, for I will live 
For thee, and in thine eyes, and thou shalt be 
No more a mourner; but the radiant Joys 
Shall wait upon thee, and the angel Hope 
Attend thee ever; and I will kneel to thee. 
And worship thee, and call thee my beloved, 
Hy all; oh, wilt thou, wilt thou, Lalage, 
Fly thither with me ? 

LaL A deed is to be done — 
Castiglione lives! 

Pol And he shall die. (e^) 

Lai {after a pause) And — he — shall — die? — 
Castiglione die ? Who spoke the words ? 
Where am I ? what was it he said ? PolitianI 
Thou art not gone — ^thou art not gone, PolitianI 
I feel thou art not gone, yet dare not look 
Lest I behold thee not; thou couldst not go 
With those words upon thy lips — oh, speak to me I 


Scenes from " Politian '* 

And let me hear thy voice — one word, one word, 
To say thou art not gone ; one little sentence, 
To say how thou dost scorn, how thou dost hate 
My womanly weakness! Ha! ha! thou art not 

gone — 
Oh, speak to me i I knew thou wouldst not go i 
I knew thou wouldst not, couldst not, durst not go. 
"^^llain, thou art not gone — ^thou mockest me! 
And thus I clutch thee, thus ! He is gone, he is gone — 
Gone — gone. Where am I ? 't is well, 't is very well; 
So that the blade be keen, the blow be sure, 
'T is well, 't is very well — ^alas! alas! 

The Suburtw. Politian alone. 

PoUtiath This weakness grows upon me. I am 
And much I fear me ill ; it will not do 
To die ere I have lived ! Stay, stay thy hand, 
O Azrael, yet awhile ! Prince of the powers 
Of darkness and the tomb, oh, pity me ! 
Oh, pity me ! let me not perish now. 
In the budding of my paradisal hope ! 
Give me to live yet, yet a little while : 
*T is I who pray for life ; I who so late 
Demanded but to die ! What sayeth the Count ? 

Enter Baldazzar, 

Scenes from "Politian" 

Baldazzar, That| knowing no cause of quarrel or 
of feud 
Between the Earl Politian and himself , 
He doth decline your cartel. 

PoL What didst thou say ? 
What answer was it you brought me, good Baldazzar ? 
With what excessive fragrance the zephyr comes 
Laden from yonder bowers ! a fairer day, 
Or one more worthy Italy, methinks 
No mortal eyes have seen ! — what said the Count ? 

Bal That he, Castiglione, not being aware 
Of any feud existing, or any cause 
Of quarrel between your lordship and himself, 
Cannot accept the challenge. 

PoL It is most true ; 
All this is very true. When saw you, sir, 
When saw you now, Baldazzar, in the frigid 
Ungenial Britain which we left so lately, 
A heaven so calm as this, so utterly free 
From the evil taint of clouds ? — and he did say ? 

BaL No more, my lord, than I have told you, sir; 
The Count Castiglione will not fight, 
Having no cause for quarrel. 

PoL Now this is true. 
All very true. Thou art my friend, Baldazzar, 
And I have not forgotten it; thou 'It do me 
A piece of service ; wilt thou go back and sav 
Unto this man, that I, the Earl of Leicester, 


Scenes from "Politian" 

Hold him a villain ? thus much| I prythee, say 
Unto the Count; it is exceeding just 
He should have cause for quarrel. 

BaL My lord I — my friend ! 

Pol (aside) 'Tishe — he comes himself! (aloud) 
Thou reasonest well ; 
I know what thou wouldst say: not send the message. 
Well, I wUl think of it; I will not send it. 
Now prythee, leave me; hither doth come a person 
With whom affairs of a most private nature 
I would adjust. 

BaL I go ; to-morrow we meet, 
Do we not ? at the Vatican. 

PoL At the Vatican. 

Enter CaatigUone, 
Cas, The Earl of Leicester here ? 

PoL I am the Earl of Leicester, and thou seest, 
Dost thou not ? that I am here. 

Cas, Hy lord, some strange. 
Some singular mistake — misunderstanding — 
Hath without doubt arisen : thou hast been urged 
Thereby, in heat of anger, to address 
Some words most unaccountable, in writing, 
To me, Castiglione ; the bearer being 
Baldazzar, Duke of Surrey. I am aware 
Of nothing which might warrant thee in this thing, 
Having given thee no offence. Ha! am I right ? 
'T was a mistake ? undoubtedly; we all 

VOL. I.— 7. gy 

Scenes from "Politian" 

Do err at times. 
Pol Draw, villain, and prate no morel 
Cas, Ha! draw ? and villain ? have at thee then 
at once, 
Proud Earl ! 

PoL {drawing) Thus to the expiatory tomb, 
Untimely sepulchre, I do devote thee 
In the name of Lalage! 

Cas, {letting fall bis sword and recoiling to the ex** 
tremity of the stage) 

Of Lalage I 
Hold off — thy sacred hand! — avaunt, I say! 
Avaunt! I will not fight thee; indeed I dare not. 
PoL Thou wilt not fight with me, didst say, Sir 
Shall I be baffled thus ? now this is well; 
Didst say thou darest not ? Ha! 

Cas, I dare not, dare not; 
Hold off thy hand — ^with that beloved name 
So fresh upon thy lips I will not fight thee. 
I cannot; dare not. 

PoL Now by my halidom 
I do believe thee! coward, I do believe theel 
Cas0 Ha! coward! this may not be! 

{dutches bis sword and staggers towards PoU^ 
tian, but bis purpose is changed before reacb^ 
ing him, and he falls upon bis knee at tbe 
feet of tbe Earf) 


Scenes from "Politian" 

Alast my lord| 
It iS| it is most true. In such a cause 
I am the veriest coward. Oh, pity me I 

Pol {greatly softened) Alas I I do, indeed I pity 

Qm80 And Lalage — 

PoL Scoundrel I arise and die I 

Cas. It needeth not be ; thus — thus — oh, let me die 
Thus on my bended knee I It were most fitting 
That in this deep humiliation I perish; 
For in the fight I will not raise a hand 
Against thee. Earl of Leicester. Strike thou home — 

{baring bis bosom) 
Here is no let or hindrance to thy weapon — 
Strike home. I will not fight thee. 

Pol Now s'death and hell I 
Am I not — am I not sorely, grievously tempted 
To take thee at thy word ? But mark me, sir: 
Think not to fly me thus. Do thou prepare 
For public insults in the streets, before 
The eyes of the citizens. I '11 follow thee ; 
Like an avenging spirit I '11 follow thee 
Even unto death. Before those whom thou lovest — 
Before all Rome I '11 taunt thee, villain, I '11 tatmt thee, 
Dost hear ? with cowardice — thou wilt not fight me ? 
Thou liestl thou shaltl {exit) 

Cas, Now this indeed is just I 
Most righteous, and most just, avenging Heaven I 


To Zante 


MR isle, that from the fairest of all flowers 
Thy gentlest of all gentle names dost take I 
How many memories of what radiant hours 
At sight of thee and thine at once awake 1 
How many scenes of what departed bliss 1 

How many thoughts of what entombed hopes I 
How many yisions of a maiden that is 

No more — no more upon thy verdant slopes I 
No more ! alas, that magical sad sound 

Transforming all! Thy charms shall please no 

Thy memory no morel Accursed ground 

Henceforth I hold thy flower-enamelled shore, 

hyacinthine isle 1 purple Zante 1 
" Isola d* oro t Fior di Levante I " 

Bridal Ballad 

ring is on my hand. 
And the wreath is on my brow; 
Satins and jewels grand 
Are all at my commandi 
And I am happy now. 

And my lord he loves me well ; 

But when first he breathed his vow 
I felt my bosom swell, 
For the words rang as a knell, 
And the voice seemed his who feU 
In the battle down the dell, 

And who is happy now. 

But he spoke to reassure me, 

And he kissed my pallid brow, 
While a revery came o*er me, 
And to the churchyard bore me. 
And I sighed to him before me. 
Thinking him dead D'Elormie, 

" Oh, I am happy now! ** 


Bridal Ballad 

And thus the words were spoken. 
And this the plighted vow, 

And though my faith be broken, 

And though my heart be broken. 

Behold the golden token 
That proves me happy now I 

Would God I could awaken! 

For I dream I know not how, 
And my soul is sorely shaken 
Lest an evil step be taken. 
Lest the dead who is forsaken 

May not be happy now. 


The Haunted Palace 

K the greenest of our valleys 
By good angels tenanted, 
Once a fair and stately palace — 
Radiant palace — reared its head. 
In the monarch Thought's dominion 

It stood there! 
Never seraph spread a pinion 
Over fabric half so fair I 

Banners yellow, glorious, golden, 

On its roof did float and flow 
(This, all this, was in the olden 

Time long ago), 
And every gentle air that dallied, 

In that sweet day, 
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, 

A wingM odor went away. 

Wanderers in that happy valley 
Through two luminous windows saw 

The Haunted Palace 

Spirits moving musically 

To a lute's well-tim^d law, 
Round about a throne where, sitting 

In state his glory well befitting, 

The ruler of the realm was seen. 

And all with pearl and ruby glowing 

Was the fair palace-door. 
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing, 

And sparkling evermore, 
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty 

Was but to sing. 
In voices of surpassing beauty. 

The wit and wisdom of their king. 

But evil things, in robes of sorrow. 

Assailed the monarch's high estate. 
(Ah, let us mourn ! for never morrow 

Shall dawn upon him desolate !) 
And rotmd about his home, the glory 

That blushed and bloomed 
Is but a dim-remembered story 

Of the old time entombed. 

And travellers now, within that valley. 
Through the red-litten windows see 
Vast forms, that move fantastically 


The Haunted Palace 

To a discordant melody, 
While, like a ghastly rapid river, 

Through the pale door 
A hideous thiong rush out forever 

And laugh, but smile no more. 



HERE are some qualities, some incorporate 
That have a double life, which thus is mada 
A type of that twin entity which springs 

From matter and light, evinced in solid and shade. 
There is a twofold Silence — sea and shore — 
Body and soul. One dwells in lonely places, 
Newly with grass o'ergrown; some solemn graces, 
Some human memories and tearful lore. 
Render him terroiless : his name 's " No Hore." 
He is the corporate SJence : dread him not 1 

No power bath he of evil in himself; 
But should some urgent fate (untimely lotl) 

Bring thee to meet his shadow (nameless df, 
That haunteth the tone regions where hath trod 
No foot of man), commend thyself to Godl 
1 06 

The Conqueror Worm 

! 't is a gala niglit 

Within the lonesome latter years I 
\n angel throng, bewinged, bedight 
In veils, and drowned in tears. 
Sit in a theatre, to see 

A play of hopes and fears, 
While the orchestra breathes fitfully 
The music of the spheres. 

Himes, in the form of God on high, 

Mutter and mumble low. 
And hither and thither fly ; 

Mere puppets they, who come and go 
At bidding of vast formless things 

That shift the scenery to and fro. 
Flapping from out their condor wings 

Invisible woe I 


The Conqueror Worm 

That motley drama — oh, be sure 

It shall not be forgot! 
With its phantom chased for evermorei 

By a crowd that seize it not, 
Through a circle that ever retumeth in 

To the self -same spot, 
And much of madness, and more of sin. 

And horror the soul of the plot. 

But see, amid the mimic rout 

A crawling shape intrude ! 
A blood-red thing that writhes from out 

The scenic solitude ! 
It writhes ! it writhes ! with mortal pangs 

The mimes become its food. 
And the angels sob at vermin fangs 

In human gore imbued. 

Out, out are the lights, out allt 

And, over each quivering form, 
The curtain, a funeral pall. 

Comes down with the rush of a storm, 
And the angels, all pallid and wan. 

Uprising, unveiling, affirm 
That the play is the tragedy " Man,** 

And its hero the Conqueror Worm. 

1 08 


Y a route obscure and lonefyi 
Haunted by ill angels only, 
Where an Eidolon, named Night, 
On a black throne reigns upright, 
I have reached these lands but newly 
From an ultimate dim Thule — 
From a wild weird clime that lieth, sublime, 
Out of Space, out of Time. 

Bottomless vales and boundless floods. 
And chasms and caves and Titan woods, 
With forms that no man can discover 
For the dews that drip all over ; 
Mountains toppling evermore 
Into seas without a shore ; 
Seas that restlessly aspire. 
Surging, unto skies of fire; 
Lakes that endlessly outspread 
Their lone waters lone and dead, 



Their still waters — still and chilly 
With the snows of the lolling lily. 

By the lakes that thus outspread 
Their lone waters, lone and dead, 
Their sad waters, sad and chilly 
With the snows of the lolling lily, U 3 
By the mountains, near the river 
Murmuring lowly, murmuring ever, 
By the gray woods, by the swamp 
Where the toad and the newt encamp. 
By the dismal tarns and pools 
Where dwell the Ghouls, 
By each spot the most unholy. 
In each nook most melancholy. 
There the traveller meets aghast 
Sheeted memories of the past — 
Shrouded forms that start and sigh 
As they pass the wanderer by — 
White-robed forms of friends long given, 
In agony, to the earth — and heaven. 

For the heart whose woes are legion 
'T is a peaceful, soothing region ; 
For the spirit that walks in shadow 
*T is — oh, 't is an Eldorado ! 
But the traveller, travelling through it, 
May not, dare not openly view it; 



DWELT alone 
In a world of moan, 
And my soul was a stagnant tide, 
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie Iwcame my blushing 

bride — 
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my 
smiling bride. 

Ah, less — less bright 
The stars of night 
^lan the eyes of the radiant girl I 
And never a flake 
That the vapor can make 
'^^th the moon-tints of purple and pearl 
Can vie with the modest Eulalie's most unregarded 

Can compare with the bright-eyed Eulalie's most 
humble and careless curl. 


Row doubt, now pain 
Come never again, 
For her soul gives me sigh for sigh, 
And all day long 
Shines, bright and strong, 
Astarttf within the sky. 
While ever to her dear Eulalie upturns her matron 

While ever to her young Eulalie upturns her violet eye. 

To M. L. S. 


all who hail thy presence as the moming, 
Of all to whom thine absence is the night — 
The blotting utterly from out high heaven 
The sacred sun — of all who, weeping, bless thee 
Hourly for hope, for life, ah I above all, 
For the resurrection of deep-buried faith 
In truth, in virtue, in humanity ; 
Of all who, on despair's unhallowed bed 
Ljring down to die, have suddenly arisen 
At thy soft-murmured words, " Let there be light 1 " 
At the soft-murmured words that were fulfilled 
In the seraphic glancing of thine eyes ; 
Of all who owe thee most, whose gratitude 
Nearest resembles worship, oh, remember 
The truest, the most fervently devoted, 
And think that these weak lines are written by him, — 
By him who, as he pens them, thrills to think 
His spirit is codununing with an angel's. 


HE skies they were ashen and sober, 
The leaves they were crispM and sere, 
The leaves they were withering and sere ; 
It was night in the lonesome October 

Of my most immemorial year ; 
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber, 
In the misty mid region of Weir, 
It was down by the dank tain of Auber, 

In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir. 

Here once, through an alley Titanic, 

Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul, 

Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul. 
These were days when my heart was volcanic 

As the scoriae rivers that roll, 

As the lavas that restlessly roll 
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek 

In the ultimate climes of the pgle. 
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek 

In the realms of the boreal pole. 


Our talk had been serious and sober. 

But our thoughts they were palsied and sere. 
Our memories were treacherous and sere. 

For we knew not the month was October, 
And we marked not the night of the year 
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!) ; 

We noted not the dim lake of Auber 

(Though once we had journeyed down here). 

Remembered not the dank tarn of Auber, 

Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir. 

And now, as the night was senescent 

And star-dials pointed to mom, 

As the star-dials hinted of mom. 
At the end of our path a liquescent 

And nebulous lustre was bom, 
Out of which a miraculous crescent 

Arose with a duplicate horn, 
Astarte's bediamonded crescent 

Distinct with its duplicate horn. 
And I said : << She is warmer than Dian ; 

She roUs through an ether of sighs. 

She revels in a region of sighs : 

She has seen that the tears are not dry on 

These cheeks, where the worm never dies, 

And has come past the stars of the Lion 
To point us the path to the skies, 
To the Lethean peace of the skies; 



Come up, in despite of the Lion, 

To shine on us with her bright eyes. 

Come up through the lair of the Lion, 
With love in her luminous eyes." 

But Psyche, uplifting her finger. 

Said : << Sadly this star I mistrust, 

Her pallor I strangely mistrust; 
Oh, hasten! oh, let us not linger! 

Oh, fly ! let us fly ! for we must." 
In terror she spoke, letting sink her 

Wings until they trailed in the dust; 
In agony sobbed, letting sink her 

Plumes till they trailed in the dust. 

Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust. 

I repUed: « This is nothing but dreaming: 

Let us on by this tremulous light! 

Let us bathe in this crystalline light! 
Its sibyllic splendor is beaming 

With hope and in beauty to-night! 

See, it flickers up the sky through the night t 
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming. 

And be sure it will lead us aright ; 
We safely may trust to a gleaming 

That cannot but guide us aright,' 

Since it flickers up to heaven through the night." 



Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her, 
And tempted her out of her gloom. 
And conquered her scruples and gloom; 

And we passed to the end of the vista, 

But were stopped by the door of a tomb. 
By the door of a legended tomb; 

And I said: <' What is written, sweet sister. 
On the door of this legended tomb ? " 
She replied : " Ulalume ! Ulalume ! 
'T is the vault of thy lost Ulalume ! " 

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober 

As the leaves that were crispM and sere. 
As the leaves that were withering and sere, 

And I cried : '' It was surely October 
On this very night of last year 
That I journeyed, I journeyed down here. 
That I brought a dread burden down here. 
On this night of all nights in the year, 
Ah, what demon has tempted me here ? 

Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber, 
This misty mid region of Weir, 

Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber, 
This ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.'' 



OT long ago, the writer of these lines, 
In the mad pride of intellectuality, 
Maintained " the power of words " ; denied 
that ever 
A thought arose within the human brain 
Beyond the utterance of the human tongue : 
And now, as if in mockery of that boast, 
Two words, two foreign soft disytlabtes, 
Itahan tones, made only to be munnured 
By angels dreaming in the moonUt " dew 
That hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill," 
Have stirred from out the abysses of his heart 
Untbought-like thou^ts that are the souls of thought. 
Richer, far wilder, far diviner visions 
Than even the seraph harper, Israf el 
(Who has " the sweetest voice of all God's creatures "), 
Could hope to utter. And 1 1 my spells are broken. 
The pen falls powerless from my shivering hand. 
With thy dear name as text, though bidden by thee, 
I cannot write; I cannot speak or think; 


Alas I I cannot feel ; for *t is not feeling, 
This standing motionless upon the golden 
Threshold of the wide-open gate of dreams, 
Gazing, entranced, adown the gorgeous vista. 
And thrilling as I see, upon the right, 
Upon the left, and all the way along. 
Amid empurpled vapors, far away 
To where the prospect teraunates — thee only. 

An Enigma 

riELDOM we find," says 
" Half an idea in the prof 
"nirough all the flimsy things we see at 

As easily as through a Naples bom 

Trash of all trash t how can a lad} 
Yet heavier far than your Petrarchan stuff — 
Owl-downy nonsense that the faintest puff 

Twirls into trunk-paper the while you con it.** 
And, veritably, Sol is right enough. 
The general tuckermanities are arrant 
Bubbles, ephemeral and so transparent; 

But this is, now — you may depend upon it — 
Stable, opaque, immortal — all by dint 
Of the dear names that lie concealed within 't. 

To Helen 

SAW thee once, once only, years ago ; 

I must not say how many, but not many. 

It was a July midnight ; and from out 
A full-orbed moon, that, like thine own soul, soaring, 
Sought a precipitate pathway up through heaven, 
There fell a silvery-silken veil of light. 
With quietude, and sultriness, and slumber, 
Upon the upturned faces of a thousand 
Roses that grew in an enchanted garden. 
Where no wind dared to stir, unless on tiptoe ; 
Fell on the upturned faces of these roses 
That gave out, in return for the love-light, 
Their odorous souls in an ecstatic death ; 
Fell on the upturned faces of these roses 
That smiled and died in this parterre, enchanted 
By thee, and by the poetry of thy presence. 

Clad all in white, upon a violet bank 

I saw thee half reclining; while the moon 


To Helen 

Fell on the upturned faces of the roses, 

And on thine own, upturned — alas, in sorrow! 

Was it not Fate that, on this July midnight — 
Was it not Fate (whose name is also Sorrow), 
That bade me pause before that garden-gate. 
To breathe the incense of those slumbering roses ? 
No footstep stirred ; the hated world all slept. 
Save only thee and me. (0 heaven! God! 
How my heart beats in coupling those two words !) 
Save only thee and me. I paused, I looked. 
And in an instant all things disappeared. 
(Ah, bear in mind this garden was enchanted!) 

The pearly lustre of the moon went out; 
The mossy banks and the meandering paths, 
The happy flowers and the repining trees. 
Were seen no more : the very roses' odors 
Died in the arms of the adoring airs. 
All, all expired save thee, save less than thou: 
Save only the divine light in thine eyes. 
Save but the soul in thine uplifted eyes. 
I saw but them ; they were the world to me. 
I saw but them ; saw only them for hours ; 
Saw only them until the moon went down. 
What wild heart-histories seemed to lie enwritten 
Upon those crystalline, celestial spheres! 
How dark a woe ! yet how sublime a hope ! 


To Helen 

How silently serene a sea of pride I 
How daring an ambition, yet how deepl 
How fathomless a capacity for love I 

But now, at length, dear Dian sank from sight. 
Into a western couch of thunder-cloud; 
And thou, a ghost, amid the entombing trees 
Didst glide away. Only thine eyes remained. 
They would act go ; they never yet have gone. 
Lighting my lonely pathway home that night, 
They have not left me (as my hopes have) since. 
They follow me ; they lead me through the years. 
They are my ministers, yet I their slave. 
Their office is to illumine and enkindle ; 
My duty, to be saved by their bright light, 
And purified in their electric fire. 
And sanctified in their Eljrsian fire. 
They fill my soul with beauty (which is hope). 
And are far up in heaven — the stars I kneel to 
In the sad, silent watches of my night ; 
While even in the meridian glare of day 
I see them still, two sweetly scintillant 
Venuses, unextinguished by the sunt 


A Valentine 

^PSBIOR her this rhyme is penned, whose luminoas 

•*•' ™* Brightly expressive as the twins of Leda, 
Shall find her own sweet name, that, nestling lies 

Upon the page, enwrapped from every reader. 
Search narrowly the lines E — they hold a treasure 

Divine, a talisman, an amulet 
That must be worn at heart. Search well the measure. 

The words, the syllables 1 Do not forget 
^e trivialest point, or you may lose your labor I 

And yet there is in this no Gordian knot 
Which one might not undo without a sabre. 

If one could merely comprehend the plot. 
Enwritten upon the leaf where now are peering 

Eyes' scintillating soul, there lie perdus 
Three eloquent words oft uttered in the hearing 

Of poets, by poets, as the name is a poet's too. 
Its letters, although naturally lying 

Like the knight tHnto — Mendez Ferdlnando — 

Annabel Lee 

f^ AT was many and many a year ago, 
\^f) In a kingdom by the sea, 

%^^ 1 That a maiden there lived whom you may 
By the name of Annabel Lee ; 
And this maiden she lived with no other thought 
Than to love and be loved by me. 

I was a child and she was a child, 

In this kingdom by the sea : 
But we loved with a love that was more than love — - 

I and my Annabel Lee ; 
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven 

Coveted her and me. 

And this was the reason that, long ago, 

In this kingdom by the sea, 
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling 

My beautiful Annabel Lee ; 
So that her high-bom kinsman came 

Annabel Lee 

And bore her away from me. 
To shut her up in a sepulchre 
In this kingdom by the sea* 

The angels, not half so happy in heaven, 

Went envying her and me ; 
Yes, that was the reason (as all men know. 

In this kingdom by the sea) 
That the wind came out of the cloud by night, 

Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee. 

But our love it was stronger by far than the love 

Of those who were older than we, 

Of many far wiser than we ; 
And neither the angels in heaven above 

Nor the demons down under the sea 
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul 

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee ; 

For the moon never beams without bringing me 

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee ; 
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes 

Of the beautiful Annabel Lee ; 
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side 
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bridCi 

In the sepulchre there by the sea, 

In her tomb by the sounding sea. 


To My Mother 

ECAUSE I feel that, in the heavens above, 
The angels, whispering to one another, 
Can find, among their burning terms of 
None 80 devotional as that of " Mother," 
Therefore by that dear name I long have called you, 

You who are more than mother unto me. 
And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you. 

In setting my Virginia's spirit free. 
Hy mother — my own mother, who died early, 

Was but the mother of myself ; but you 
Are mother to the one I loved so dearly. 

And thus are dearer than the mother I knew 
By that infinity with which my wife 
Was dearer to my soul than its soul-Ufe. 

For Annie 

5|HAWK Heaven I tlie crias — 

The danger is past, 
jAnd the lingering illness 
Is oyer at last. 
And the fever called " Living " 
Is conquered at last. 

Sadly I know 

I am shorn of my strength^ 
And no muscle I move 

As I he at full length; 
But no matter ! I feel 

I am better at length. 

And I rest so composed, 

Now, in my bed, 
That any beholder 

Might fancy me dead — 
Blight start at beholding me, 

Thinking me dead. 

For Annie 

The moaning and groaningi 

The sighing and sobbing. 
Are quieted now. 

With that honible throbbing 
At heart — ah, that horriblei 

Horrible throbbing 1 
The sickness, the nausea, 

The pitiless pain, 
Have ceased, with the fever 

That maddened my brain. 
With the fever called " Living •• 

That burned in my brain. 

And oh! of all tortures 

That torture the worst 
Has abated — the terrible 

Torture of thirst 
For the naphthaline river 

Of Passion accurst; 
I have drunk of a water 

That quenches all thirst : 

Of a water that flows. 
With a lullaby sound. 

From a spring but a very few 
Feet under ground. 

From a cavern not very far 
Down under ground. 

VOL. 1. — XO. I ^ C 

For Annie 

And ah! let it never 

Be foolishly said 
That my room it is gloomy 

And narrow my bed ; 
For man never slept 

In a different bed — 
And, to sleep, you must slumber 

In just such a bed. 

Hy tantalized spirit 

Here blandly reposes, 
Forgetting, or never 

Regretting, its roses- 
Its old agitations 

Of myrtles and roses ; 

For now, while so quietly 

Lying, it fancies 
A holier odor 

About it, of pansies — 
A rosemary odor, 

Commingled with pansies, 
With rue and the beautiful 

Puritan pansies. 

And so it lies happily. 

Bathing in many 
A dream of the truth 

For Annie 

And the beauty of Annie, 
Drowned in a bath 
Of the tresses of Annie. 

She tenderly kissed me. 

She fondly caressed. 
And then I fell gently 

To sleep on her breast, 
Deeply to sleep 

From the heaven of her breast. 

When the light was extinguished 

She covered me warm, 
And she prayed to the angels 

To keep me from harm. 
To the queen of the angels 

To shield me from harm. 

And I lie so composedly 

Now in my bed, 
(Knowing her love) 

That you fancy me dead; 
And I rest so contentedly 

Now in my bed, 
(With her love at my breast) 

That you fancy me dead — 
That you shudder to look at me. 

Thinking me dead. 


For Annie 

But my heart is brighter 

Than all of the many 
Stars in the sl^, 

For it sparkles with Amiie — 
It glows with the light 

Of the love of my Annie, 
With the thought of the light 

Of the eyes of my Annie. 



KTLY bedight, 

gallant knight, 
sunshine and in shadow, 

Had journeyed long, 
Singing a song. 
In search of Eldorado. 

But he grew old, 
This knight so bold. 

And o'er his heart a shadow 
Fell as he found 
Ho spot of ground 

That looked like Eldorado. 

And, as his strength 
Failed him at length. 
He met a pilgrim shadow ; 
" Shadow," said he, 

** Where can it be, 
This land of Eldorado ? ** 

" Over the mountains 

Of the moon, 
Down the valley of the shadow. 

Ride, boldly ride," 

The shade replied, — 
** If you seek for Eldorado 1 " 



The Purpose of Poetry 



T has been said that a good critique on a 
poem may be written by one who is no 
poet himself. This, according to your idea 
and mine of poetry, I feel to be false ; the less poetical 
the critic, the less just the critique, and the converse. 

On this accoimt, and because there are but few B 's 

in the world, I would be as much ashamed of the 
world's good opinion as proud of your own. Another 
than yourself might here observe : '^ Shakespeare is in 
possession of the world's good opinion, and yet Shake- 
speare is the greatest of poets. It appears then that 

' Printed, with tlie following note, in the second volume of the SouAeta 
Utenry Me$$tnger$ "These detached passages form part of the preface to 
a small volume printed some years ago for private circulation. They have 
vigor and much originality; but of course we shall not be called upon to 
endorse all the writer's opinions.** 


The Purpose of Poetry 

the world judge correctly: why should you be ashamed 
of their favorable judgment ? " The difficulty lies in 
the interpretation of the word judgment or opinion* 
The opinion is the world's, truly, but it may be 
called theirs as a man would call a book his, having 
bought it: he did not write the book, but it is his; 
they did not originate the opinion, but it is theirs. A 
fool, for example, thinks Shakespeare a great poet; 
yet the fool has never read Shakespeare. But the 
fool's neighbor, who is a step higher on the Andes of 
the mind, whose head (that is to say, his more exalted 
thought) is too far above the fool to be seen or under- 
stood, but whose feet (by which I mean his every-day 
actions) are sufficiently near to be discerned, and by 
means of which that superiority is ascertained, which 
but for them would never have been discovered — this 
neighbor asserts that Shakespeare is a great poet; the 
fool believes him, and it is henceforth his opinion. 
This neighbor's own opinion has, in like manner, been 
adopted from one above him, and so, ascendingly, to a 
few gifted individuals, who kneel around the summit, 
beholding, face to face, the master spirit who stands 
upon the pinnacle. . • . 

You are aware of the great barrier in the path of an 
American writer. He is read, if at all, in preference 
to the combined and established wit of the world. I 
say " established " ; for it is with literature as with law 
or empire — an established name is an estate in tenure, 


The Purpose of Poetry 

or a throne in possession. Besides, one might suppose 
that books, like their authors, improve by travel, 
their having crossed the sea is, with us, so great a dis- 
tinction. Our antiquaries abandon time for distance; 
our very fops glance from the binding to the bottom 
of the title-page, where the mystic characters which 
spell London, Paris, or Genoa are precisely so many 
letters of recommendation. . . . 

I mentioned just now a vulgar error as regards 
criticism. I think the notion that no poet can form a 
correct estimate of his own writings is another. I re- 
marked before, that in proportion to the poetical talent, 
would be the justice of the critique upon poetry. 
Therefore, a bad poet would, I grant, make a false 
critique, and his self-love would infallibly bias his 
little judgment in his favor; but a poet, who is indeed 
a poet, could not, I think, fail of making a just cri- 
tique. Whatever should be deducted on the score of 
self-love might be replaced on account of his intimate 
acquaintance with the subject; in short, we have 
more instances of false criticism than of just, where 
one's own writings are the test, simply because we 
have more bad poets than good. There are, of course, 
many objections to what I say : Milton is a great ex- 
ample of the contrary; but his opinion with respect 
to the Paradise Regained, is by no means fairly ascer- 
tained. By what trivial circumstances men are often 
led to assert what they do not really believe ! Perhaps 


The Purpose of Poetry 

an inadvertent word has descended to posterity. But, 
in fact, the Paradise Regained is little, if at all, in- 
ferior to the Paradise Lost, and is only supposed so to 
be because men do not like epics, whatever they may 
say to the contrary, and, reading those of Milton in 
their nattiral order, are too much wearied with the 
first to derive any pleasure from the second. 

I dare say Milton preferred Comas to either; if so, 
justly. . . . 

As I am speaking of poetry, it will not be amiss to 
touch slightly upon the most singular heresy in its 
modem history — ^the heresy of what is called, very 
foolishly, the Lake School. Some years ago I might 
have been induced, by an occasion like the present, to 
attempt a formal refutation of their doctrine; at 
present it would be a work of supererogation. The 
wise must bow to the wisdom of such men as Coler- 
idge and Southey, but, being wise, have laughed at 
poetical theories so prosaically exemplified. 

Aristotle, with singular assurance, has declared 
poetry the most philosophical of all writings,' but it 
required a Wordsworth to pronounce it the most 
metaphysical. He seems to think that the end of 
poetry is, or should be, instruction ; yet it is a truism 
that the end of our existence is happiness: if so, the 
end of every separate part of our existence, everjrthing 
connected with our existence, should be still, happi- 

^ Spoudhtaton kai pbUosophikotalon genot, 


The Purpose of Poetry 

ness. Tberefore the end of instruction should be 
happiness; and happiness is another name for pleas- 
ure; therefore the end of instruction should be pleas- 
ure, yet we see the above-mentioned opinion implies 
precisely the reverse. 

To proceed: ceteris paribus, he who pleases is of 
more importance to his fellow-men than he who in- 
structs, since utility is happiness, and pleasure is the 
end already obtained, which instruction is merely the 
means of obtaining. 

I see no reason, then, why our metaph]rsical poets 
should plume themselves so much on the utility of 
their works, unless, indeed, they refer to instruction 
with eternity in view; in which case, sincere respect 
for their piety would not allow me to express my con- 
tempt for their judgment, contempt which it would 
be difficult to conceal, since their writings are pro- 
fessedly to be understood by the few, and it is the 
many who stand in need of salvation. In such case I 
should no doubt be tempted to think of the Devil in 
Melmotb, who labors indefatigably through three 
octavo volumes to accomplish the destruction of one 
or two souls, while any common devil would have 
demolished one or two thousand. . . . 

Against the subtleties which would make poetry a 
study, not a passion, it becomes the metaphysician 
to reason, but the poet to protest. Yet Wordsworth 
and Coleridge are men in years: the one imbued in 


The Purpose of Poetry 

contemplation from his childhood ; the other, a giant in 
intellect and learning. The diffidence, then, with 
which I venttire to dispute their authority would be 
overwhelming, did I not feel, from the bottom of 
my heart, that learning has little to do with the im- 
agination, intellect with the passions, or age with 
poetry. . . . 

Trifles, like straws, upon the surface flow, 

He who would search for pearls must dive below, 

are lines which have done much mischief. As regards 
the greater truths, men oftener err by seeking them 
at the bottom than at the top; the depth lies in the 
huge abysses where wisdom is sought, not in the 
palpable palaces where she is found. The ancients 
were not always right in hiding the goddess in a well : 
witness the light which Bacon has thrown upon phil- 
osophy; witness the principles of our divine faith, 
that moral mechanism by which the simplicity of a 
cluld may overbalance the wisdom of a man. 

We see an instance of Coleridge's liability to err, 
in his Biograpbia Litetaria, professedly his literary 
life and opinions, but, in fact, a treatise de omni 
scibili et quibusdam aliis. He goes wrong by reason 
of his very profundity, and of his error we have a 
natural tjrpe in the contemplation of a star. He who 


regards it directiy and intensely sees, it is true, the 
star, but it is the star without a ray; whUe he who 


The Purpose of Poetry 

surveys it less inquisitively is conscious of all for which 
the star is useful to us below, its brilliancy and its 
beauty. • • • 

As to Wordsworth, I have no faith in him. That 
he had, in youth, the feelings of a poet, I believe, for 
there are glimpses of extreme delicacy in his writings 
(and delicacy is the poet's own kingdom, his El 
Dorado), but they have the appearance of a better day 
recollected; and glimpses, at best, are little evidence 
of present poetic fire — we know that a few straggling 
flowers spring up daily in the crevices of the glacier. 

He was to blame in wearing away his youth in con- 
templation with the end of poetizing in his manhood. 
With the increase of his judgment the light which 
should make it apparent has faded away. His judg- 
ment, consequently, is too correct. This may not be 
understood; but the old Goths of Germany would 
have understood it, who used to debate matters of 
importance to their State twice, once when drunk, 
and once when sober: sober, that they might not be 
deficient in formality; drunk, lest they should be 
destitute of vigor. 

The long wordy discussions by which he tries to 
reason us into admiration of his poetry speak very 
little in his favor; they are full of such assertions as 
this (I have opened one of his volumes at random) : 
'* Of genius the only proof is the act of doing well 
what is worthy to be done, and what was never done 



The Purpose of Poetry 

before." Indeed! then it follows that in doing what 
is unworthy to be done, or what has been done beforei 
no genius can be evinced ; yet the picking of pockets 
is an unworthy act; pockets have been picked time 
immemorial, and Barrington, the pickpocket, in point 
of genius, would have thought hard of a comparison 
with William Wordsworth, the poet. 

Again, in estimating the merit of certain poems, 
whether they be Ossian's or McPherson's can surely 
be of little consequence, yet, in order to prove their 
worthlessness, Mr. W. bas expended nuMy pagM in 
the controversy. Tantaeoe toiimkf Can great mkidt 
descend to such absurdity? But woree stiU: that 
he may bear down every argument in faTor of theee 
poems, he triumphantly drags forward a passage, in 
his abomination of which he expects the reader to 
sympathize. It is the beginning of the epic poem, 
Temora, ^^ The blue waves of Ullin roll in light ; the 
green hills are covered with day ; trees shake their 
dusky heads in the breeze." And this — ^this gorgeous, 
yet simple imagery, where all is alive and panting 
with immortality — this, William Wordsworth, the au- 
thor of Peter Bell, has selected for his contempt. We 
shall see what better he, in his own person, has to 
offer. Imprimis: 

And now she 's at the pony's head, 
And now she 's at the pony's tail, 
On that side now, and now on this, 


The Purpose of Poetry 

And almost stifled her with 
A few sad tears does Betty shed, 
She pats the pony where or when 
She knows not: happy Betty Foyl 
Oh, Johnny 1 never mind the Doctor I 

Secondly: — 

The dew was falling fast, the — stars began to blink, 

I heard a voice; it said: " Drink, pretty creature, drink 1 " 

And, looking o'er the hedge, be — ^fore me I espied 

A snow-white mountain lamb, with a — maiden at its side. 

No other sheep were near, the lamb was all alone. 

And by a slender cord was — ^tether'd to a stone. 

IToW| we have no doubt this is all true ; we will 
believe it; indeed, we will, Mr. W. Is it sympathy 
for the sheep you wish to excite ? I love a sheep 
from the bottom of my heart. • • • 

But there are occasions, dear B , there are 

occasions when even Wordsworth is reasonable. 
Even Stamboul, it is said, shall have an end, and the 
most unlucky blunders must come to a conclusion. 
Here is an extract from his preface : 

'^ Those who have been accustomed to the phrase- 
ology of modem writers, if they persist in reading 
this book to a conclusion [impossible!], will, no 
doubt, have to struggle with feelings of awkwardness 
[ha! ha! hafj; they will look round for poetry [ha! 
ha! ha! ha!], and will be induced to inquire by what 

VOL. 1.— II. j5j 

The Purpose of Poetry 

species of comtesy these attempts have been per- 
mitted to assume that title." [Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!] 

Yet let not Mr. W. despair; he has given immor- 
tafity to a wagon and the bee; Sophocles has trans- 
mitted to eternity a sore toe, and dignified a tragedy 
with a chorus of ttirkeys. . . . 

Of Coleridge I cannot speak but with reverence. 
His towering intellect! his gigantic power! He is 
one more evidence of the fact ''que la plupart des 
sectes ont raison dans une bonne partie de ce qu'elles 
avancent, mais non pas en ce qu'elles nient." He 
has imprisoned his own conceptions by the barrier 
he has erected against those of others. It is lamen- 
table to think that such a mind should be buried in 
metaphysics, and, like the Nyctantbes, waste its per- 
fume upon the night alone. In reading his poetry, I 
tremble, like one who stands upon a volcano, con- 
scious, from the very darkness bursting from the 
crater, of the fire and the light that are weltering 

What is Poetry ? Poetry ! that Proteus-like idea, 
with as many appellations as the nine-titled Corcyra! 
*' Give me," I demanded of a scholar some time 
ago, " give me a definition of poetry." ^ Tres volon^ 
tiers ^ I and he proceeded to his library, brought me 
a Dr. Johnson, and overwhelmed me with a definition. 
Shade of the immortal Shakespeare! I imagine to 
myself the scowl of your spiritual eye upon the pro- 


The Purpose of Poetry 

fanity of that scurrilous Ursa Major. Think of 

poetry, dear B ; think of poetry, and then think 

of Dr. Samuel Johnson ! Think of all that is airy and 
fairylike, and then of all that is hideous and un- 
wieldy; think of his huge bulk, the elephant! and 
then — ^and then think of the Tempest, the Midsum^ 
met Night's XJrcaxn^ —Prospero, Oberon, and Titania! 
• • • 

A poem, in my opinion, is opposed to a work of 
science by having, for its inmiediate object, pleasure, 
not truth; to romance, by having, for its object, an 
indefinite instead of a definite pleasure, being a poem 
only so far as this object is attained; romance pre- 
senting perceptible images with definite, poetry with 
indefinite, sensations, to which end music is an essen- 
tial, since the comprehension of sweet sound is our 
most indefinite, conception. Music, when combined 
with a pleasurable idea, is poetry; music, without 
the idea, is simply music; the idea, without the 
music, is prose, from its very definitiveness. 

What was meant by the invective against him who 
had no music in his soul ? . . . 

To sum up this long rigmarole, I have, dear B , 

what you no doubt perceive, for the metaphysical 
poets, as poets, the most sovereign contempt. That 
they have followers proves nothing — 

No Indian prince has to his palace 

More followers than a thief to the gallows. 


The Poetic Principle 

far jun speakii^ of the poetic principle, I have no 
v^l^ design to be either thorouj^ or profound. 
"*^ I While discussing very much at random 
the essentiality of what we call poetry, my principal 
purpose will be to cite for consideration some few of 
those minor English or American poems which best 
suit my own taste, or which upon my own fancy 
have left the most definite impression. By " minor 
poems " I mean, of course, poems of little length. 
And here, in the beginning, permit me to say a few 
words in regard to a somewhat peculiar principle 
which, whether rightfully or wrongfully, has always 
had its influence in my own critical estimate of the 
poem. I hold that a long poem does not exist. I 
maintain that the phrase, " a long poem," is ^mply 
a flat contradiction in terms. 

I need scarcely observe that a poem deserves its 

title only inasmuch as it excites, by elevating the soul. 


The Poetic Principle 

The value of the poem is in the ratio of this elevat- 
ing excitement. But all excitements are, through a 
psychal necessity, transient. That degree of excite- 
ment which would entitle a poem to be so called at 
all, cannot be sustained throughout a composition of 
any great length. After the lapse of half an hour, 
at the very utmost, it flags, fails, a revulsion ensues, 
and then the poem is, in effect and in fact, no longer 

There are, no doubt, many who have fotmd diffi- 
culty in reconciling the critical dictum that the Para^^ 
dhe Lost is to be devoutly admired throughout, with 
the absolute impossibility of maintaining for it, during 
perusal, the amount of enthusiasm which that critical 
dictum would demand. This great work, in fact, is 
to be regarded as poetical, only when, losing sight of 
that vital requisite in all works of art, tmity, we 
view it merely as a series of minor poems. If, to 
preserve its tmity, its totality of effect or impression, 
we read it (as would be necessary) at a single sit- 
ting, the result is but a constant alternation of excite- 
ment and depression. After a passage of what we 
feel to be true poetry, there follows inevitably a pas- 
sage of platitude which no critical prejudgment can 
force us to admire; but if upon completing the work, 
we read it again, omitting the first book (that is to 
say, commencing with the second) we shall be sur- 
prised at now finding that admirable which we before 


The Poetic Principle 

condemned} that damnable which we had previously 
so much admired. It follows from all this that the 
ultimate, aggregate, or absolute effect of even the 
best epic under the stm is a nullity: — and this is 
precisely the fact. 

In regard to the Iliad, we have, if not positive 
proof, at least very good reason for believing it in- 
tended as a series of lyrics; but, granting the epic 
intention, I can say only that the work is based on an 
imperfect sense of art. The modem epic is, of the 
supposititious ancient model, but an inconsiderate 
and blindfold imitation. But the day of these artis- 
tic anomalies is over. If, at any time, any very long 
poem were popular in reality, which I doubt, it is 
at least clear that no very long poem will ever be 
popular again. 

That the extent of a poetical work is, ceteris pari*' 
bus, the measure of its merit, seems tmdoubtedly, 
when we thus state it, a proposition sufficiently ab- 
surd; yet we are indebted for it to the quarterly 
reviews. Surely there can be nothing in mere size, 
abstractly considered there can be nothing in mere 
bulk, so far as a volume is concerned, which has so 
continuously elicited admiration from these satur- 
nine pamphlets! A mountain, to be sure, by the 
mere sentiment of physical magnitude which it con- 
veys, does impress us with a sense of the sublime; 
but no man is impressed after this fashion by the 


The Poetic Principle 

material grandeur of even The Columbiad, Even the 
quarterlies have not mstructed us to be so impressed 
by it. As yet| they have not insisted on our estimat- 
ing Lamartine by the cubic foot, or Pollok by the 
potmd; but what else are we to infer from their con- 
tinual prating about " sustained effort " ? If by 
'^ sustained effort '' any little gentleman has accom- 
plished an epic, let us frankly commend him for the 
effort, if this indeed be a thing commendable; but 
let us forbear praising the epic on the effort's account. 
It is to be hoped that common sense, in the time to 
come, will prefer deciding upon a work of art rather 
by the impression it makes, by the effect it produces, 
than by the time it took to impress the effect, or by 
the amotmt of '' sustained effort '' which had been 
found necessary in effecting the impression. The fact 
is, that perseverance is one thing and genius quite 
another, nor can all the quarterlies in Christendom 
confotmd them. By and by, this proposition, with 
many which I have been just urging, will be received 
as self-evident. In the meantime, by being generally 
condemned as falsities, they will not be essentially 
damaged as truths. 

On the other hand, it is clear that a poem may 
be improperly brief. Undue brevity degenerates into 
mere epigrammatism. A very short poem, while now 
and then producing a brilliant or vivid, never produces 
a profotmd or enduring, effect. There must be the 


The Poetic Principle 

steady pressing down of the stamp upon the wax. De 
B^ranger has wrought innumerable things, pungent 
and spirit-stirring; but, in general, they have been too 
imponderous to stamp themselves deeply into the pub- 
lie opinion; and thus, as so many feathers of fancy, 
have been blown aloft only to be whistled down the 

A remarkable instance of the effect of undue brevity 
in depressing a poem, in keeping it out of the popu- 
lar view, is afforded by the following exquisite littte 
serenade : 

I arise from dreams of thee 

In the first sweet sleep of night, 
When the winds are breathing low, 

And the stars are shining bright. 
I arise from dreams of thee, 

And a spirit in my feet 
Has led me — who knows how ? — 

To thy chamber-window, sweet ! 

The wandering airs they faint 

On the dark, the silent stream — 
The champak odors fail 

Like sweet thoughts in a dream; 
The nightingale's complaint. 

It dies upon her heart. 
As I must die on thine. 

Oh, beloved as thou art! 

Oh, lift me from the grass I 
I die, I f aint, I f aU ! 
1 68 

The Poetic Principle 

Let thy love in kisses rain 

On my lips and eyelids pale. 
Hy cheek is cold and white, alas I 

Hy heart beats loud and fast, 
Oh, press it close to thine again, 

Where it will break at last I 

Very few, perhaps, are familiar with these lines, yet 
no less a poet than Shelley is their author. Their 
warm, yet delicate and ethereal imagination will be 
appreciated by all, but by none so thoroughly as by 
him who has himself arisen from sweet dreams of one 
beloved, to bathe in the aromatic air of a Southern 
midsummer night. 

One of the finest poems by Willis — the very best, in 
my opinion, which he has ever written — has, no doubt, 
through this same defect of undue brevity, been kept 
back from its proper position, not less in the critical 
than in the popular view. 

The shadows lay along Broadway, 

'T was near the twilight-tide. 
And slowly there a lady fair 

Was walking in her pride. 
Alone walked she ; but, viewlessly, 

Walked spirits at her side. 

Peace charmed the street beneath her feet. 

And honor charmed the air; 
And all astir looked kind on her. 

And call'd her good as fair, 


The Poetic Principle 

Fot all God ever gave to her, 
She kept with chary care. 

She kept with care her beauties rare 

From lovers warm and true, 
For her heart was cold to all but gold. 

And the rich came not to woo ; 
But honored well are charms to sell 

If priests the selling do. 

Now walking there was one more fair, 

A slight girl, lily-pale ; 
And she had unseen company 

To make the spirit quail: 
Twizt Want and Scorn she walk'd forlorOi 

And nothing could avail. 

No mercy now can clear her brow 

For this world's peace to pray; 
For, as love's wild prayer dissolved in air. 

Her woman's heart gave way I 
But the sin forgiven by Christ in heaven 

By man is cursed alway I 

In this composition we find it difficult to recognize 
the Willis who has written so many mere " verses of 
society." The lines are not only richly ideal, but 
full of energy; while they breathe an earnestness, 
an evident sincerity of sentiment, for which we look 
in vain throughout all the other works of this author. 

While the epic mania, while the idea that, to merit 
in poetry, prolixity is indispensable, has, for some 
years past, been gradually dying out of the public 


The Poetic Principle 

mindi by mere dint of its own absurditji we find it 
succeeded by a heresy too palpably false to be long 
tolerated, but one which, in the brief period it has 
already endured, may be said to have accomplished 
more in the corruption of our poetical literature than 
all its other enemies combined. I allude to the heresy 
of '' The Didactic." It has been assumed, tacitly and 
avowedly, directly and indirectly, that the ultimate 
object of all poetry is truth. Every poem, it is said, 
should inculcate a moral; and by this moral is the 
poetical merit of the work to be adjudged. We 
Americans especially have patronized this happy idea; 
and we Bostonians, very especially, have developed it 
in full. We have taken it into our heads that to write 
a poem simply for the poem's sake, and to acknow- 
ledge such to have been our design, would be to confess 
ourselves radically wanting in the true poetic dignity 
and force : but the simple fact is, that, would we but 
permit ourselves to look into our own souls, we should 
immediately there discover that under the stm there 
neither exists nor can exist any work more thoroughly 
dignified, more supremely noble than this very poem, 
this poem perse, this poem which is a poem and 
nothing more, this poem written solely for the poem's 

With as deep a reverence for the true as ever in- 
spired the bosom of man, I would, nevertheless limit, 
in some measure, its modes of inculcation. I would 


The Poetic Principle 

limit to enforce them. I would not enfeeble them by 
dissipation. The demands of Truth are severe; she 
has no sympathy with the myrtles. All that which is 
so indispensable in song is precisely all that with 
which she has nothing whatever to do. It is but mak- 
ing her a flatmting paradox, to wreathe her in gems and 
flowers. In enforcing a truth, we need severity rather 
than efflorescence of language. We must be simple, 
precise, terse. We must be cool, calm, tmimpas- 
sioned. In a word, we must be in that mood which, 
as nearly as possible, is the exact converse of the poet- 
ical. He must be blind indeed who does not perceive 
the radical and chasmal differences between the truth- 
ful and the poetical modes of inculcation. He must 
be theory-mad beyond redemption who, in spite of 
these differences, shall still persist in attempting to 
reconcile the obstinate oils and waters of poetry and 

Dividing the world of mind into its three most im- 
mediately obvious distinctions, we have the pure intel- 
lect, taste, and the moral sense. I place taste in the 
middle, because it is just this position which, in the 
mind, it occupies. It holds intimate relations with 
either extreme, but from the moral sense is separated 
by so faint a difference that Aristotle has not hesitated 
to place some of its operations among the virtues 
themselves. Nevertheless, we find the offices of the 
trio marked with a sufficient distinction. Just as the 


The Poetic Principle 

intellect concerns itself with truth, so taste informs us 
of the beautiful, while the moral sense is regardful of 
duty. Of this latter, while conscience teaches the 
obligation, and reason the expediency, taste contents 
herself with displajring the charms, waging war upon 
vice solely on the ground of her deformity, her dis- 
proportion, her animosity to the fitting, to the appro- 
priate, to the harmonious — ^in a word, to beauty. 

An inmiortal instinct, deep within the spirit of man, 
is thus, plainly, a sense of the beautiful. This it is 
which administers to his delight in the manifold forms, 
and sotmds, and odors, and sentiments amid which he 
exists. And just as the lily is repeated in the lake, or 
the eyes of Amaryllis in the mirror, so is the mere 
oral or written repetition of these forms, and sotmds, 
and colors, and odors, and sentiments a duplicate 
source of delight. But this mere repetition is not 
poetry. He who shall simply sing, with however 
glowing enthusiasm, or with however vivid a truth of 
description, of the sights, apd sotmds, and odors, and 
colors, and sentiments which greet him in common 
with all mankind — he, I say, has yet failed to prove 
his divine title. There is still a something in the dis- 
tance which he has been tmable to attain. We have 
still a thirst tmquenchable, to allay which he has not 
shown us the crystal springs. This thirst belongs to 
the immortality of man. It is at once a consequence 
and an indication of his perennial existence. It is the 


The Poetic Principle 

desire of the moth for the star. It is no mere appre- 
ciation of the beauty before us, but a wild effort to 
reach the beauty above. Inspired by an ecstatic pre- 
science of the glories beyond the grave, we strugglci 
by multiform combinations among the things and 
thoughts of time, to attain a portion of that loveliness 
whose very elements, perhaps, appertain to eternity 
alone. And thus when by poetry, or when by music, 
the most entrancing of the poetic moods, we find our- 
selves melted into tears, not as the Abbat€ Gravia 
supposes, through excess of pleasure, but through a 
certain petulant, impatient sorrow at our inability to 
grasp now wholly, here on earth, at once and forever, 
those divine and rapturous joys, of which through the 
poem, or through the music, we attain to but brief and 
indeterminate glimpses. 

The struggle to apprehend the supernal loveliness, 
this struggle on the part of souls fittingly constituted, 
has given to the world all that which it (the world) 
has ever been enabled at once to understand and to 
feel as poetic. 

The poetic sentiment, of course, may develop itself 
in various modes: in painting, in sculpture, in archi- 
tecture, in the dance, very especially in music, and 
very peculiarly and with a wide field, in the composi- 
tion of the landscape garden. Our present theme, 
however, has regard only to its manifestation in 
words. And here let me speak briefly on the topic of 


The Poetic Principle 

rhythm. Contenting myself with the certainty that 
music in its various modes of metre, rhythm, and 
rhyme, is of so vast a moment in poetry as never to 
be wisely rejected ; is so vitally important an adjunct 
that he is simply silly who declines its assistance, I 
will not now pause to maintain its absolute essential- 
ity. It is in music, perhaps, that the soul most nearly 
attains the great end for which, when inspired by the 
poetic sentiment, it struggles — the creation of supernal 
beauty. It may be, indeed, that here this sublime end 
is, now and then, attained in fact. We are often 
made to feel, with a shivering delight, that from an 
earthly harp are stricken notes which cannot have 
been unfamiliar to the angels. And thus there can 
be little doubt that in the union of poetry with music 
in its popular sense we shall find the widest field for 
the poetic development. The old Bards and Minne- 
singers had advantages which we do not possess, and 
Thomas Moore, singing his own songs, was, in the 
most legitimate manner, perfecting them as poems. 

To recapitulate, then: I would define, in brief, the 
poetry of words as '' the rhythmical creation of 
beauty." Its sole arbiter is taste. With the intellect 
or with the conscience it has only collateral relations. 
Unless incidentally, it has no concern whatever either 
with duty or with truth. 

A few words, however, in explanation. That pleas- 
ure which is at once the most pure, the most elevating, 


The Poetic Principle 

and the most intense, is derivedi I maintainy from the 
contemplation of the beautiful. In the contemplation 
of beauty we alone find it possible to attain that 
pleasurable elevation, or excitement, of the soul, 
which we recognize as the poetic sentiment, and which 
is so easily distinguished from truth, which is the 
satisfaction of the reason, or from passion, which is 
the excitement of the heart. I make beauty, there- 
fore, — using the word as inclusive of the sublime, — 
I make beauty the province of the poem, simply be- 
cause it is an obvious rule of art that effects should 
be made to spring as directly as possible from their 
causes, no one as yet having been weak enough to 
deny that the peculiar elevation in question is at least 
most readily attainable in the poem. It by no 
means follows, however, that the incitements of pas- 
sion, or the precepts of duty, or even the lessons of 
truth, may not be introduced into a poem, and with 
advantage; for they may subserve, incidentally, in 
various ways, the general purposes of the work; but 
the true artist will always contrive to tone them down 
in proper subjection to that beauty which is the atmos- 
phere and the real essence of the poem. 

I cannot better introduce the few poems which I 
shall present for your consideration than by the cita- 
tion of the proem to Mr. Longfellow's Wail$ 

The day is done, and the darkness 
Falls from the wings of night, 


VOL. 1. — 12. 

The Poetic Principle 

As a feather is wafted downward 
From an eagle in his flight. 

I see the lights of the village 

Gleam through the rain and the mist, 
And a feeling of sadness comes o'er me, 

That my soul cannot resist; 

A feeling of sadness and longing, 

That is not akin to pain. 
And resembles sorrow only 

As the mist resembles the rain. 

Come, read to me some poem. 
Some simple and heartfelt lay, 

That shall soothe this restless feeling 
And banish the thoughts of day. 

Not from the grand old masters. 
Not from the bards sublime. 

Whose distant footsteps echo 
Through the corridors of time. 

For, like strains of martial music, 
Their mighty thoughts suggest 

Life's endless toil and endeavor; 
And to-night I long for rest. 

Read from some humbler poet, 
Whose songs gushed from his heart. 

As showers from the clouds of summer, 
Or tears from the eyelids start ; 

Who through long da3rs of labor. 

And nights devoid of ease. 
Still heard in his soul the music 

Of wonderful melodies. 


The Poetic Principle 

Such songs have power to quiet 

The restless pulse of care, 
And come like the benediction 

That follows after prayer. 

Then read from the treasured volume 

The poem of thy choice, 
And lend to the rhyme of the poet 

The beauty of thy voice. 

And the night shall be filled with music. 
And the cares that infest the day. 

Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs, 
And as silently steal away. 

With no great range of imagination, these lines 
have been justly admired for their delicacy of expres- 
sion. Some of the images are very effective. Nothing 
can be better than 

• • . the bards sublimCi 
Whose distant footsteps echo 
Through the corridors of time. 

The idea of the last quatrain is also very effective. 
The poem, on the whole, however, is chiefly to be 
admired for the graceful insouciance of its metre, so 
well in accordance with the character of the senti- 
ments, and especially for the ease of the general man- 
ner. This " ease," or naturalness, in a literary style, 
it has long been the fashion to regard as ease in appear- 
ance alone, as a point of really difficult attainment. 


The Poetic Principle 

But not so; a natural manner is difficult only to him 
who should never meddle with it — to the unnatural. 
It is but the result of writing with the understanding, 
or with the instinct, that the tone in composition 
should always be that which the mass of mankind 
would adopt, and must perpetually vary, of course, 
with the occasion. The author who, after the fashion 
of the North American Review, should be, upon all 
occasions, merely '' quiet,'' must necessarily, upon 
many occasions, be simply silly or stupid, and has no 
more right to be considered '^ easy " or '^ natural '' 
than a cockney exquisite, or than the Sleeping Beauty 
in the wax- works. 

Among the minor poems of Bryant, none has so 
much impressed me as the one which he entitles 
Jtme, I quote only a portion of it: 

There, through the long, long summer hours, 

The golden light should lie, 
And thick, yoimg herbs and groups of flowers 

Stand in their beauty by. 
The oriole should build and tell 
His love-tale, close beside my cell; 

The idle butterfly 
Should rest him there, and there be heard 
The housewife-bee and humming-bird. 

And what if cheerful shouts, at noon, 

Come, from the village sent. 
Or songs of maids, beneath the moon, 

With fairy laughter blent ? 


The Poetic Principle 

And what if, in the evening light, 
BetrothM lovers walk in sight 

Of my low monument ? 
I would the lovely scene around 
Might know no sadder sight nor sound. 

I know, I know I should not see 

The season's glorious show. 
Nor would its brightness shine for me. 

Nor its wild music flow; 
But if, around my place of sleep, 
The friends I love should come to weep, 

They might not haste to go. 
Soft airs, and song, and light, and bloom 
Should keep them, lingering by my tomb. 

These to their soften'd hearts should bear 

The thought of what has been, 
And speak of one who cannot share 

The gladness of the scene ; 
Whose part in all the pomp that fills 
The circuit of the summer hills. 

Is — that his grave is green; 
And deeply would their hearts rejoice 
To hear again his living voice. 

The rh]rthmical flow here is even voluptuouSi noth- 
ing could be more melodious. The poem has always 
affected me in a remarkable manner. The intense 
melancholy which seems to well up, perforce, to the 
surface of all the poet's cheerful sayings about his 
gravei we find thrilling us to the soul, while there is 

1 80 

The Poetic Principle 

the truest poetic elevation in the thrill. The impres- 
sion left is one of a pleasurable sadness. And if, in 
the remaining compositions which I shall introduce to 
you, there be more or less of a similar tone always 
apparent, let me remind you that (how or why we know 
not) this certain taint of sadness is inseparably con- 
nected with all the higher manifestations of true 
beauty. It is, nevertheless, 

A feeling of sadness and longing. 

That is not akin to pain, 
And resembles sorrow only 

As the mist resembles the rain. 

The taint of which I speak is clearly perceptible even 
in a poem so full of brilliancy and spirit as the Health 
of Edward C. Pinkney: 

I fill this cup to one made up 

Of loveliness alone, 
A woman, of her gentle sex 

The seeming paragon; 
To whom the better elements 

And kindly stars have given 
A form so fair, that, like the air, 

*T is less of earth than heaven. 

Her every tone is music's own, 

Like those of morning birds. 
And something more than melody 

Dwells ever in her words: 


The Poetic Principle 

The coinage of her heart are they. 

And from her lips each flows 
As one may see the burden'd bee 

Forth issue from the rose. 

Affections are as thoughts to her, 

The measures of her hours; 
Her feelings have the fragrancy, 

The freshness of young flowers; 
And lovely passions, changing oft, 

So fill her, she appears 
The image of themselves by turns, — 

The idol of past years 1 

Of her bright face one glance will trace 

A picture on the brain. 
And of her voice in echoing hearts 

A sound must long remain; 
But memory, such as mine of her, 

So very much endears. 
When death is nigh my latest sigh 

Will not be life's, but hers. 

I fill*d this cup to one made up 

Of loveliness alone, 
A woman, of her gentle sex 

The seeming paragon — 
Her health 1 and would on earth there stood 

Some more of such a frame. 
That life might be all poetry. 

And weariness a name. 

It was the misfortune of Mr. Pinkney to have been 
bom too far south. Had he been a New Englander, it 


The Poetic Principle 

is probable that he would have been ranked as the 
first of American lyrists by that magnanimous cabal 
which has so long controlled the destinies of Ameri- 
can Letters in conducting the thing called the North 
American Review, The poem just cited is especially 
beautiful; but the poetic elevation which it induces we 
must refer chiefly to our sympathy in the poet's en- 
thusiasm. We pardon his hyperboles for the evident 
earnestness with which they are uttered. 

It is by no means my design, however, to expatiate 
upon the merits of what I should read you. These 
will necessarily speak for themselves. Boccalini, in 
his Advertisements from Parnassus, tells us that 
Zoilus once presented Apollo a very caustic criticism 
upon a v£ry admirable book, whereupon the god asked 
him for the beauties of the work. He replied that he 
only busied himself about the errors. On hearing this, 
Apollo, handing hun a sack of unwinnowed wheat, 
bade him pick out all the chaff for his reward. 

Now, this fable answers very well as a hit at the 
critics, but I am by no means sure that the god was 
in the right. I am by no means certain that the true 
limits of the critical duty are not grossly misunder- 
stood. Excellence, in a poem especially, may be con- 
sidered in the light of an axiom, which need only be 
properly put to become self-evident. It is not excel- 
lence if it requires to be demonstrated as such; and 
thus, to point out too particularly the merits of 


The Poetic Principle 

a work of art is to admit that they are not merits 

Among the Melodies of Thomas Moore is one whose 
distinguished character as a poem proper seems to 
have been singularly left out of view. I allude to his 
lines beginning, ** Come, rest in this bosom.'' The in- 
* tense energy of their expression is not surpassed by 
anything in Bjrron. There are two of the lines in 
which a sentiment is conveyed that embodies the all- 
in-all of the divine passion of love — a sentiment whichi 
perhaps, has found its echo in more, and in more pas- 
sionate, htmian hearts than any other single sentiment 
ever embodied in words : 

Come, rest in this bosom, my own stricken deer, 
though the herd have fled from thee, thy home is still here; 
Here still is the smile that no cloud can o'ercast, 
And a heart and a hand all thy own to the last. 

Oh ! what was love made for, if 't is not the same 
Through joy and through torment, through glory and shame? 
I know not, I ask not, if guilt 's in that heart, 
I but know that I love thee, whatever thou art. 

Thou hast caU'd me thy Angel in moments of bliss. 
And thy Angel I *11 be, 'mid the horrors of this. 
Through the furnace, unshrinking, thy steps to pursue, 
And shield thee, and save thee, — or perish there too ! 

It has been the fashion, of late days, to deny Moore 
imagination while granting him fancy — a distinction 


The Poetic Principle 

originating with Coleridgei than whom no man more 
fully comprehended the great powers of Moore. The 
fact is, that the fancy of this poet so far predominates 
over all his other faculties and over the fancy of all 
other men, as to have induced, very naturally, the idea 
that he is fanciful only. But never was there a greater 
mistake. Never was a grosser wrong done the fame 
of a true poet. In the compass of the English lan- 
guage I can call to mind no poem more profoundly, 
more weirdly imaginative, in the best sense, than the 
lines conmiencing, ** I would I were by that dim 
lake,'' which are the composition of Thomas Moore. 
I regret that I am unable to remember them. 

One of the noblest, and, speaking of fancy, one of 
the most singularly fanciful, of modem poets was 
Thomas Hood. His Fair Ines had always for me aii 
inexpressible charm : 

Oh I saw ye not fair Ines ? 

She *s gone into the West, 
To dazzle when the sun is down, 

And rob the world of rest: 
She took our daylight with her, 

The smiles that we love best. 
With morning blushes on her cheek, 

And pearls upon her breast. 

Oh 1 turn again, fair Ines, 
Before the fall of night, 


The Poetic Principle 

For fear the moon should shine alone, 

And stars unrivall'd bright; 
And blessdd will the lover be 

That walks beneath their light. 
And breathes the love against thy cheek 

I dare not even write 1 

Would I had been, fair Ines, 

That gallant cavalier, 
Who rode so gayly by thy side, 

And whispered thee so near 1 
Were there no bonny dames at home. 

Or no true lovers here. 
That he should cross the seas to win 

The dearest of the dear? 

I saw thee, lovely Ines, 

Descend along the shore, 
With bands of noble gentlemen. 

And banners waved before ; 
And gentle youth and maidens gay, 

And snowy plumes they wore; 
It would have been a beauteous dream, 

— If it had been no more 1 

Alas, alas, fair Ines ! 

She went away with song. 
With Music waiting on her steps, 

And shoutings of the throng; 
But some were sad and felt no mirth. 

But only Music's wrong. 
In sounds that sang Farewell, Farewell, 

To her you 've loved so long. 


The Poetic Principle 

Farewell, farewell, fair Lies, 

That vessel never bore 
So fair a lady on its deck. 

Nor danced so light before* 
Alas for pleasure on the sea, 

And sorrow on the shore ! 
The smile that blessed one lover's heart 

Has broken many more. 

The Haunted HousCf by the same authofi is one of 
the truest poems ever writteni one of the truest, one 
of the most tmexceptionable, one of the most thor- 
oughly artistic, both in its theme and in its execution. 
It is, moreover, powerfully ideal — imaginative. I re- 
gret that its length renders it unsuitable for the pur- 
poses of this lecture. In place of it permit me to offer 
the tmiversally appreciated Bridge of Sighs i 

One more tmfortimate. 
Weary of breath, 
Rashly importunate, 
Gone to her death ! 

Take her up tenderly. 
Lift her with care ; 
Fashion'd so slenderly, 
Young, and so fair! 

Look at her garments 
Clinging like cerements; 
Whilst the wave constantly 
Drips from her clothing; 

• 187 

The Poetic Principle 

Take her up instantly. 
Loving, not loathing. 

Touch her not scornfully; 
Think of her mournfully, 
Gently and humanly; 
Not of the stains of her, 
All that remains of her 
Now, is pure womanly. 

Make no deep scrutiny 
Into her mutiny 
Rash and undutiful: 
Past all dishonor. 
Death has left on her 
Only the beautiful. 

Still, for all slips of hers, 
One of Eve's family — 
Wipe those poor lips of heit 
Oozing so clammily; 

Loop up her tresses 
Escaped from the comb. 
Her fair auburn tresses ; 
Whilst wonderment guesses 
Where was her home? 

Who was her father ? 
Who was her mother? 
Had she a sister ? 
Had she a brother? 
Or was there a dearer one 
Still, and a nearer one 
Yet, than all other ? 

The Poetic Principle 

Alas ! for the rarity 
Of Christiaii charity 
Under the sun 1 
Oh, it was pitiful! 
Near a whole city full. 
Home she had none. 

Sisterly, brotherly, 
Fatherly, motherly 
Feelings had changed: 
Love, by harsh evidence 
Thrown from its eminence; 
Even God's providence 
Seeming estranged. 

Where the lamps quiver 

So far in the river. 

With many a light 

From window and casement. 

From garret to basement, 

She stood, with amazement, 

Houseless by night. 

The bleak wind of March 
Made her tremble and shiver; 
But not the dark arch. 
Or the black flowing river: 
Mad from life's history. 
Glad to death's mystery, 
Swift to be hurPd— 
Anywhere, anywhere 
Out of the world ! 

The Poetic Principle 

In she plunged boldly, 
No matter how coldly 
The rough river ran, — 
Over the brink of it, 
Picture it— think of it, 
Dissolute man! 
Lave in it, drink of it, 
Then, if you 'can! 

Take her up tenderly, 
Lift her with care ; 
Fashion'd so slenderly. 
Young, and so fair 1 

Ere her limbs frigidly 
Stiffen too rigidly. 
Decently, kindly. 
Smooth, and compose them; 
And her eyes, close them, 
Staring so blindly I 

Dreadfully staring 
Through muddy impurity, 
As when with the daring 
Last look of despairing 
Fixed on fujurity. 

Perishing gloomily. 
Spurred by contumely. 
Cold inhumanity. 
Burning insanity, 
Into her rest. 
Cross her hands humbly, 

The Poetic Principle 

As if praying dtimblyy 
Over her breast ! 

Owning her weakness, 
Her evil behavior, 
And leaving, with meekness, 
Her sins to her Saviour ! 

The vigor of this poem is no less remarkable than 
its pathos. The versification, although carrying the 
fanciful to the very verge of the fantastic, is neverthe- 
less admirably adapted to the wild insanity which is 
the thesis of the poem. 

Among the minor poems of Lord Byron is one which 
has never received from the critics the praise which it 
undoubtedly deserves : 

Though the day of my destiny 's over, 

And the star of my fate hath declined. 
Thy soft heart refused to discover 

The faults which so many could find ; 
Though thy soul with my grief was acquainted 

It shrunk not to share it with me, 
And the love which my spirit hath painted 

It never hath found but in thee. 

Then when nature around me is smiling. 
The last smile which answers to mine, 

I do not believe it beguiling, 
Because it reminds me of thine ; 

And when winds are at war with the ocean, 
As the breasts I believed in with me, 


The Poetic Principle 

If their billows excite an emotion, 
It is that they bear me from thee. 

Though the rock of my last hope is shivered. 

And its fragments are sunk in the wave, 
Though I feel that my soul is delivered 

To pain — it shall not be its slave. 
There is many a pang to pursue me ; 

They may crush, but they shall not contemn; 
They may torture, but shall not subdue me ; 

'T is of thee that I think — ^not of them. 

Though human, thou didst not deceive me; 

Though woman, thou didst not forsake ; 
Though loved, thou f oreborest to grieve me ; 

Though slandered, thou never couldst shake; 
Though trusted, thou didst not disclaim me; 

Though parted, it was not to fly; 
Though watchful, 't was not to defame me; 

Nor mute, that the world might belie. 

Yet I blame not the world, nor despise it, 

Nor the war of the many with one — 
If my soul was not fitted to prize it, 

'T was folly not sooner to shun: 
And if dearly that error hath cost me, 

And more than I once could foresee, 
I have fotmd that whatever it lost me, 

It could not deprive me of thee. 

From the wreck of the past, which hath perished. 

Thus much I at least may recall : 
It hath taught me that which I most cherished 

Deserved to be dearest of all. 


The Poetic Principle 

In the desert a fountain is springing, 

In the wide waste there still is a tree. 
And a bird in the solitude singing, 

Which speaks to my spirit of thee. 

Although the rhythm here is one of the most difficult 
the versification could scarcely be improved. No 
nobler theme ever engaged the pen of poet. It is the 
soul-elevating idea, that no man can consider himself 
entitled to complain of fate while, in his adversity, he 
still retains the unwavering love of woman. 

From Alfred Tennyson — although in perfect sincer- 
ity I regard him as the noblest poet that ever lived — I 
have left myself time to cite only a very brief speci- 
men. I call him and think him the noblest of poets, 
not because the impressions he produces are at all 
times the most profound; not because the poetical 
excitement which he induces is at all times the most 
intense ; but because it is at all times the most ethereal, 
in other words, the most elevating and the most 
pure. No poet is so little of the earth, earthy. What 
I am about to read is from his last long poem. The 
Princess / 

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean, 
Tears from the depth of some divine despair 
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes, 
In looking on the happy autumn-fields, 
And thinking of the days that are no more. 

VOL. I.— 13. J g^ 

The Poetic Principle 

Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail 
That brings our friends up from the underworld. 
Sad as the last which reddens over one 
That sinks with all we love below the verge; 
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more. 

Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns 
The earliest pipe of half-awaken'd birds 
To dying ears, when unto dying eyes 
The casement slowly grows a glimmering square; 
So sad, so strange, the days that are no more. 

Dear as remember^ kisses after death, 
And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feign'd 
On lips that are for others ; deep as love. 
Deep as first love, and wild with all regret; 
O Death in Life, the days that are no more. 

Thus, although in a very cursory and imperfect 
manner, I have endeavored to convey to you my con- 
ception of the poetic principle. It has been my pur- 
pose to suggest that, while this principle itself is, 
strictly and simply, the human aspiration for su- 
pernal beauty, the manifestation of the principle is 
always found in an elevating excitement of the soul| 
quite independent of that passion which is the intoxi- 
cation of the heart, or of that truth which is the sat- 
isfaction of the reason. For, in regard to passion, 
alas! its tendency is to degrade rather than elevate 
the soul. Love, on the contrary, love, the true, the 
divine Eros, the Uranian as distinguished from the 


The Poetic Principle 

Dionsean Venus, is unquestionably the purest and 
truest of all poetical themes. And in regard to truth, 
if, to be sure, through the attainment of a truth we 
are led to perceive a harmony where none was appar- 
ent before, we experience at once the true poetical 
effect; but this effect is referable to the harmony 
alone and not in the least degree to the truth which 
merely served to render the harmony manifest. 

We shall reach, however, more immediately a dis- 
tinct conception of what the true poetry is by mere 
reference to a few of the simple elements which induce 
in the poet himself the true poetical effect. He recog- 
nizes the ambrosia which nourishes his soul in the 
bright orbs that shine in heaven, in the volutes of 
the flower, in the clustering of low shrubberies, in 
the waving of the grain-fields, in the slanting of tall 
Eastern trees, in the blue distance of mountains, in the 
grouping of clouds, in the twinkling of half-hidden 
brooks, in the gleaming of silver rivers, in the repose 
of sequestered lakes, in the star-mirroring depths of 
lonely wells. He perceives it in the songs of birds, in 
the harp of ^olus, in the sighing of the night-wind, in 
the repining voice of the forest, in the surf that com- 
plains to the shore, in the fresh breath of the woods, in 
the scent of the violet, in the voluptuous perfume of 
the hyacinth, in the suggestive odor that comes to him 
at eventide from far-distant, undiscovered islands, over 
dim oceans illimitable and unexplored. He owns it in 


The Poetic Principle 

all noble thoughts, in all unworldly motives, in all hol> 
impulses, in all chivalrous, generous, and self-sacrific- 
ing deeds. He feels it in the beauty of woman, in the 
grace of her step, in the lustre of her eye, in the melody 
of her voice, in the soft laughter, in her sigh, in the 
harmony of the rustling of her robes. He deeply feels 
it in her winning endearments, in her burning en- 
thusiasms, in her gentle charities, in her meek and 
devotional endurances; but above all, ah! far above 
all he kneels to it, he worships it in the faith, in the 
purity, in the strength, in the altogether divine majesty 
of her love. 

Let me conclude by the recitation of yet another 
brief poem, one very different in character from any 
that I have before quoted. It is by Motherwell, and 
is called The Song of the Cavalier, With our modem 
and altogether rational ideas of the absurdity and im- 
piety of warfare, we are not precisely in that frame of 
mind best adapted to sympathize with the sentiments, 
and thus to appreciate the real excellence, of the poem. 
To do this fully we must identify ourselves, in fancy, 
with the soul of the old cavalier. 

Then mounte ! then mounte, brave gallants, all, 

And don your helmes amaine : 
Deathe's couriers, Fame and Honor, call 

Us to the field againe. 

No shrewish teares shall fill our eye 
When the sword-hilt *s in our hand, — 


The Poetic Principle 

Heart-whole we 11 part and no whit nghe 

For the fajrest of the land; 
Let juping; swaine and craven wight, 

Thus weepe and puling crye, 
Out business is like men to fight, 

And hero-like to die I 

The Rationale of Verse 

(J{HE word " verse " is here used not in its strict 
or primitive sense, but as the term most 
convenient for expressing generally and 
without pedantry all that is involved in the considera- 
tion of rhythm, rhyme, metre, and versification. 

There is, perhaps, no topic in polite literature which 
has been more pertmaciously discussed, and there is 
certainly not one about which so much inaccuracy, 
confusion, misconception, misrepresentation, mystifi- 
cation, and downright ignorance on all sides can be 
fairly said to exist. Were the topic really difficult, or 
did it lie even in the cloud-land of metaphysics, where 
the doubt-vapors may be made to assume any and 
every shape at the will or at the fancy of the gazer, 
we should have less reason to wonder at all this con- 
tradiction and perplexity; but in fact the subject is 
exceedingly simple : one tenth of it, possibly, may be 
called ethical; nine tenths, however, appertain to 

The Rationale of Verse 

mathematics; and the whole is included within the 
limits of the commonest common sense. 

'* But, if tliis is the case, how/' it will be asked, 
'* can so much misunderstanding have arisen ? Is it 
conceivable that a thousand profound scholars, inves- 
tigating so very simple a matter for centuries, have 
not been able to place it in the fullest light, at least, 
of which it is susceptible ? " These queries, I con- 
fess, are not easily answered; at all events a satisfac- 
tory reply to them might cost more trouble than 
would if properly considered, the whole vexata quacsiio 
to which they have reference. I9evertheless, there is 
little difficulty oi danger in suggesting that the '' thou- 
sand profound scholars" may have failed, first, be- 
cause they were scholars; secondly, because they 
were profound; and, thirdly, because they were a 
thousand, the impotency of the scholarship and pro- 
fundity having been thus multiplied a thousandfold. 
I am serious in these suggestions; for, first again, 
there is something in '* scholarship " which seduces 
us into blind worship of Bacon's Idol oi the Theatre, 
into irrational deference to antiquity; secondly, the 
proper ** profundity " is rarely profound — it is the 
nature of truth in general, as of some ores in particu- 
lar, to be richest when most superficial; thirdly, the 
clearest subject may be overclouded by mere super- 
abundance of talk. In chemistry the best way of 
separating two bodies is to add a third ; in speculation, 


The Rationale of Verse 

fact often agrees with fact and argument with ar- 
gument, until an additional well-meaning fact or 
argument sets everything by the ears. In one case 
out of a hundred a point is excessively discussed be- 
cause it is obscure ; in the ninety-nine remaining it is 
obscure because excessively discussed. When a topic 
is thus circumstanced) the readiest mode of investi- 
gating it is to forget that any previous investigation 
has been attempted. 

But) in fact) while much has been written on the 
'Greek and Latin rhythmS) and even on the HebreW) 
little effort has been made at examining that of any 
of the modem tongues. As regards the English) com- 
paratively nothing has been done. It may be said, 
indeed, that we are without a treatise on our own 
verse. In our ordinary granmiars and in our works 
on rhetoric or prosody in general) may be found 
occasional chapters, it is true, which have the heading 
" Versification)'' but these are) in all instances) ex- 
ceedingly meagre. They pretend to no analysis; 
they propose nothing like system; they make no 
attempt at even rule; every thing depends upon 
" authority." They are confined, in fact, to mere ex- 
emplification of the supposed varieties of English feet 
and English lines ; although in no work with which I 
am acquainted are these feet correctly given or these 
lines detailed in anything like their full extent. Yet 
what has been mentioned is all, if we except the 


The Rationale of Verse 

occasional introduction of some pedagogism, such 
as this, borrowed from the Greek prosodies: ** When 
a syllable is wanting, the verse is said to be catalectic ; 
when the measure is exact, the line is acatalectic; 
when there is a redundant syllable it forms hyper- 
meter." Now whether a line be termed catalectic or 
acatalectic is, perhaps, a point of no vital importance ; 
it is even possible that the student may be able to 
decide promptly, when the a should be employed and 
when omitted, yet be incognizant, at the same time, 
of all that is worth knowing in regard to the structure, 
of verse. 

A leading defect in each of our treatises, if treatises 
they can be called, is the confining the subject to 
mere versification while verse in general, with the 
understanding given to the term in the heading of 
this paper, is the real question at issue. Nor am I 
aware of even one ot our grammars which so much 
as properly defines the word 'Versification" itself. 
" Versification," says a work now before me, of which 
the accuracy is far more than usual, — the English 
Grammar of Goold Brown, — ** Versification is the 
art of arranging words into lines of correspondent 
length, so as to produce harmony by the regular, 
alternation of syllables differing in quantity." The 
commencement of this definition might apply, indeed, 
to the art of versification, but not versification itself. 
Versification is not the art of arranging, etc., but the 


The Rationale of Verse 

actual arranging — a distinction too obvious to need 
comment. The error here is identical with one which 
has been too long permitted to disgrace the initial 
page of every one of our school grammars. I allude 
to the definitions of English grammar itself. '' English 
grammar/' it is said, '' is the art of speaking and 
writing the English language correctly.'' This 
phraseology, or something essentially similar, is em- 
ployed, I believe, by Bacon, Miller, Fisk, Greenleaf, 
Ingersoll, Kirkland, Cooper, Flint, Pue, Comly, and 
many others. These gentlemen, it is presumed, 
adopted it, without examination, from Murray, who 
derived it from Lily (whose work was quam solatn 

Regia Majestas in omnibtss scholis docendam prat^ 
cipitj, and who appropriated it without acknow- 
ledgment, but with some unimportant modification, 
from the Latin grammar of Leonicenus. It may be 
shown, however, that this definition, so complacently 
received, is not, and cannot be, a proper definition of 
English grammar. A definition is that which so 
describes its object as to distinguish it from all others; 
it is no definition of any one thing if its terms are 
applicable to any one other. But if it be asked 
^' What is the design, the end, the aim of English 
grammar? " our obvious answer is : " The art of 
speaking and writing the English language correctly " ; 
that is to say, we must use the precise words em- 
ployed as the definition of English grammar itself. 


The Rationale of Verse 

But the object to be attained by any means is, assuredly , 
not the means. English grammar and the end con- 
templated by English granmiar are two matters suffi- 
ciently distinct; nor can the one be more reasonably 
regarded as the other than a fishing-hook as a fish. 
The definition, therefore, which is applicable in the 
latter instance, cannot, in the former, be true. Gram- 
mar in general is the analysis of language; English 
granmiar, of the English. 

But to return to versification as defined in our 
extract above. " It is the art," says the extract, " of 
arranging words into lines of correspondent length." 
Not so: a correspondence in the length of lines is 
by no means essential. Pindaric odes are, surely, 
instances of versification, yet these compositions are 
noted for extreme diversity in the length of their lines. 

The arrangement is, moreover, said to be for the 
purpose of producing ^' harmony by the regular 
alternation," etc. But harmony is not the sole aim; 
not even the principal one. In the construction of 
verse, melody should never be left out of view; yet 
this is a point which all our prosodies have most tm- 
accountably forborne to touch. Reasoned rules on 
this topic should form a portion of all systems of 

'' So as to produce harmony," says the definition, 
" by the regular alternation," etc. A regular alterna- 
tion, as described, forms no part of any principle of 


The Rationale of Verse 

versification. The arrangement of spondees and dac- 
tyls, for example, in the Greek hexameter, is an 
arrangement which may be termed ^* at random." At 
least it is arbitrary. Without interference with the 
line as a whole, a dactyl may be substituted for a 
spondee, or the converse, at any point other than the 
ultimate and penultimate feet, of which the former is 
alwajrs a spondee, the latter nearly always a dact^. 
Here, it is clear, we have no '* regular alternation of 
syllables differing in quantity.'' 

'* So as to produce harmony," proceeds the defini- 
tion, ^* by the regular alternation of syllables differing 
in quantity," — in other words, by the alternation of 
long and short syllables; for in rhythm all syllables 
are necessarily either short or long. But not only do 
I deny the necessity of any regularity in the succession 
of feet and, by consequence, of syllables, but dispute 
the essentiality of any alternation, regular or irregu- 
lar, of syllables long and short. Our author, observe, 
is now engaged in a definition of versification in gen- 
eral, not of English versification in particular. But 
the Greek and Latin metres abound in the spondee and 
pyrrhic, the former consisting of two long syllables, 
the latter of two short; and there are innumerable 
instances of the immediate succession of many spon- 
dees and many pyrrhics. 

Here is a passage from Silius Italicus: 


_j I 

The Rationale of Verse 

Fallis te mensas inter quod credis inermem 
Tot bellis quaesita viro, tot csedibus armat 
Majestas sterna ducem : si admoveris ora 
Cannas et Trebium ante oculos Trasjrmenaque busta, 
£t Pauli stare ingentem miraberis umbram. 

Making the elisions demanded by the classic pros- 
odies, we should scan these hexameters thus : 

Fflllis I te mSn | sAs In | tSr qilod | crMIs In | ermSm | 
Tdt b^l I Us qfiae | slt& ^ | rd tdt | csdlbiis | Armftt | 
H&jes I t&8 s I t6rn& dii | ctai s'&d | mdv^bls | 6rA | 
Cftnn&s I et Tribr | ftht'dcft | Ids TrAs^ | mSnAqfte | bflstft | 
£t Pftu I U stA I r'lngSn | tSm ml | rAb«rIs | OmbrAm. | 

It will be seen that, in the first and last of these 
lines, we have only two short syllables in thirteen^ 
with an uninterrupted succession of no less than nine 
long syllables. But how are we to reconcile all this 
with a definition of versification which describes it as 
** the art of arranging words into lines of correspon- 
dent length so as to produce harmony by the regular 
alternation of syllables differing in quantity " ? 

It may be urged, however, that our prosodist's in- 
tention was to speak of the English metres alone, and 
that, by omitting all mention of the spondee and pyr- 
rhic, he has virtually avowed their exclusion from our 
rhjrthms. A grammarian is never excusable on the 
ground of good intentions. We demand from him, if 
from any one, rigorous precision of style. But grant 
the design. Let us admit that our author, following 


The Rationale of Verse 

the example of all authors on English prosody, has, in 
defining versification at large, intended a definition 
merely of the English. All these prosodists, we will 
say,, reject the spondee and pyrrhic. Still all admit 
the iambus, which consists of a short syllable followed 
by a long; the trochee, which is the converse of the 
iambus; the dactyl, formed of one long syllable fol- 
lowed by two short ; and the anapaest, two short suc- 
ceeded by a long. The spondee is improperly rejected, 
as I shall presently show. The pyrrhic is rightfully 
dismissed. Its existence in either ancient or modem 
rhythm is purely chimerical, and the insisting on so 
perplexing a nonentity as a foot of two short syl- 
lables affords, perhaps, the best evidence of the gross 
irrationality and subservience to authority which 
characterize our prosody. In the meantime the 
acknowledged dactyl and anapaest are enough to sus- 
tain my proposition about the " alternation," etc., with- 
out reference to feet which are assumed to exist in the 
Greek and Latin metres alone : for an anapaest and a 
dactyl may meet in the same line ; when, of course, we 
shall have an uninterrupted succession of four short 
syllables. The meeting of these two feet, to be sure, is 
an accident not contemplated in the definition now 
discussed ; for this definition, in demanding a " regu- 
lar alternation of syllables differing in quantity,*' 
insists on a regular succession of similar feet. But 
here is an example : 


The Rationale of Verse 

Sbig t5 mft I Is&bClle. 

This is the opening line of a little ballad now before 
me, which proceeds in the same rhythm, a peculiarly 
beautiful one. More than all this: English lines are 
often well composed entirely of a regular succession of 
syllables all of the same quantity; the first lines, for 
instance, of the following quatrain by Arthur C. Coxe : 

March! march I march! 

Making sounds as they tread. 
Ho ! ho ! how they step, 

Going down to the dead 1 

The line italicized is formed of three caesuras. The 
csestira, of which I have much to say hereafter, is 
rejected by the English prosodies and grossly misrep- 
resented in the classic. It is a perfect foot, the most 
important in all verse, and consists of a single long 
syllable ; but the length of this syllable varies. 

It has thus been made evident that there is not one 
point of the definition in question which does not 
involve an error. And for anything more satisfactory 
or more intelligible we shall look in vain to any pub- 
lished treatise on the topic. 

So general and so total a failure can be referred only 
to radical misconception. In fact, the English proso- 
dists have blindly followed the pedants. These latter, 
like les moutons de Panurge, have been occupied in 
incessant tumbling into ditches, for the excellent reason 


The Rationale of Verse 

that their leaders have so tumbled before. The Iliad, 
being taken as a starting-pomt, was made to stand in- 
stead of nature and common sense. Upon this poem, 
in place of facts and deduction from fact, or from 
natural law, were built systems of feet, metres, rhythms, 
rules, — rules that contradict each other every five 
minutes, and for nearly all of which there may be 
found twice as many exceptions as examples. If any 
one has a fancy to be thoroughly confounded, to see 
how far the infatuation of what is termed '^ classical 
scholarship '' can lead a bookworm in the manufac- 
ture of darkness out of sunshine, let him turn over for 
a few moments any of the German Greek prosodies. 
The only thing clearly made out in them is a very 
magnificent contempt for Leibnitz's principle of '* a 
sufficient reason." 

To divert attention from the real matter in hand by 
any further reference to these works is unnecessary 
and would be weak. I cannot call to mind at this 
moment one essential particular of information that 
is to be gleaned from them; and I will drop them here 
with merely this one observation: that, emplojring 
from among the numerous '* ancient '' feet the spon- 
dee, the trochee, the iambus, the anapaest, the dactyl, 
and the caesura alone, I will engage to scan correctly 
any of the Horatian rhythms, or any true rhythm that 
human ingenuity can conceive. And this excess of 
chimerical feet is, perhaps, the very least of the scholas- 


The Rationale of Verse 

tic supererogations. Ex uno dhce omnia. The fact 
is, that quantity is a point in whose investigation the 
lumber of mere learning may be dispensed with, if 
ever in any. Its appreciation is universal. It apper- 
tains to no region, nor race, nor era in especial. To 
melody and to harmony the Greeks hearkened with ears 
precisely similar to those which we employ for similar 
purposes at present; and I should not be condemned 
for heresy in asserting that a pendulum at Athens 
would have vibrated much after the same fashion as 
does a pendulum in the city of Penn. 

Verse originates in the human enjoyment of equal- 
ity, fitness. To this enjoyment, also, all the moods 
of verse — rhythm, metre, stanza, rhyme, alliteration, 
the refrain, and other analogous effects — are to be 
referred. As there are some readers who habitually 
confotmd rh3rthm and metre, it may be as well here to 
say that the former concerns the character of feet (that 
is, the arrangement of syllables), while the latter has 
to do with the number of these feet. Thus, by '' a 
dactylic rhythm " we express a sequence of dactyls. 
By •* a dactylic hexameter '* we imply a line or meas- 
ure consisting of six of these dactyls. 

To return to equality. Its idea embraces those of 
similarity, proportion, identity^ repetition, and adapta- 
tion or fitness. It might not be very difficult to go 
even behind the idea of equality, and show both how 
and why it is that the human nature takes pleasure in 

VOL. 1— 14. 209 

The Rationale of Verse 

ity but such an investigation would, for any purpose 
now in view, be supererogatory. It is sufficient that 
the fact is undeniable^ — the fact that man derives en- 
J03rment from his perception of equality. Let us ex- 
amine a crystal. We are at once interested by the 
equality between the sides and between the angles of 
one of its faces : the equality of the sides pleases us ; 
that of the angles doubles the pleasure. On bringing 
to view a second face in all respects similar to the first, 
this pleasure seems to be squared ; on bringing to view 
a third it appears to be cubed, and so on. I have no 
doubt, indeed, that the delight experienced, if measur- 
able, would be fotmd to have exact mathematical rela- 
tions such as I suggest; that is to say, as far as a 
certain point, beyond which there would be a decrease 
in similar relations. 

The perception of pleasure in the equality of sounds 
is the principle of music. Unpractised ears can 
appreciate only simple equalities, such as are fotmd in 
ballad airs. While comparing one simple sound with 
another they are too much occupied to be capable of 
comparing the equality subsisting between these two 
simple sounds, taken conjointly, and two other similar 
simple sounds taken conjointly. Practised ears, on 
the other hand, appreciate both equalities at the same 
instant, although it is absurd to suppose that both are 
heard at the same instant. One is heard and appre- 
ciated from itself; the other is heard by the memory; 

J? ID 

The Rationale of Verse 

and the instant glides into and is confounded with the 
secondary appreciation. Highly cultivated musical 
taste in this manner enjoys not only these double 
equalities, all appreciated at once, but takes pleasur- 
able cognizance, through memory, of equalities the 
members of which occur at intervals so great that the 
tmcultivated taste loses them altogether. That this 
latter can properly estimate or decide on the merits of 
what is called scientific music is, of course, impossible. 
But scientific music has no claim to intrinsic excel- 
lence, it is fit for scientific ears alone. In its excess 
it is the triimiph of the physique over the morale of 
music. The sentiment is overwhelmed by the sense. 
On the whole, the advocates of the simpler melody and 
harmony have infinitely the best of the argument, 
although there has been very little of real argument 
on the subject. 

In verse, which cannot be better designated than as 
an inferior or less capable music, there is, happily, 
little chance for perplexity. Its rigidly simple charac- 
ter not even science, not even pedantry can greatly 

The rudiment of verse may possibly be found in the 
spondee. The very germ of a thought seeking satis- 
faction in equality of sound would result in the con- 
struction of words of two syllables equally accented. 
In corroboration of this idea we find that spondees 
most abotmd in the most ancient tongues. The second 


The Rationale of Verse 

step we can easily suppose to be the comparison^ that 
is to say, the collocation, of two spondees — of two 
words composed each of a spondee. The third step 
would be the juxtaposition of three of these words. 
By this time the perception of monotone would induce 
further consideration: and thus arises what Leigh 
Hunt so flounders in discussing tmder the title of " The 
Principle of Variety in Uniformity." Of course there 
is no principle in the case, nor in maintaining it. The 
" uniformity " is the principle ; the " variety " is but 
the principle's natural safeguard from self-destruction 
by excess of self. " Uniformity," besides, is the very 
worst word that could have been chosen for the ex- 
pression of the general idea at which it aims. 

The perception of monotone having given rise to an 
attempt at its relief, the flrst thought in this new direc- 
tion would be that of collating two or more words 
formed each of two syllables differently accented (that 
is to say, short and long) but having the same order in 
each word, — ^in other terms, of collating two or more 
iambuses or two or more trochees. And here let me 
pause to assert that more pitiable nonsense has been 
written on the topic of long and short syllables than on 
any other subject under the sun. In general, a syl- 
lable is long or short, just as it is difficult or easy of 
enunciation. The natural long syllables are those en- 
cimibered, the natural short syllables are those tmen- 
cumbered, with consonants; all the rest is mere 


The Rationale of Verse 

artificiality and jargon. The Latin prosodies have a 
rule that " a vowel before two consonants is long/' 
This rule is deduced from ^^ authority," that is, from 
the observation that vowels so circumstanced in the 
ancient poems are always in syllables long by the 
laws of scansion. The philosophy of the rule is un- 
touched, and lies simply in the physical difSculty of 
giving voice to such syllables — of performing the lin- 
gual evolutions necessary for their utterance. Of 
course, it is not the vowel that is long (although the 
rule says so), but the syllable of which the vowel is a 
part. It will be seen that the length of a syllable, 
depending on the facility or difficvilty of its enunciation, 
must have great variation in various syllables; but 
for the purposes of verse we suppose a long syllable 
equal to two short ones; and the natural deviation 
from this relativeness we correct in perusal. The 
more closely our long syllables approach this relation 
with our short ones, the better, ceteris paribus, will be 
our verse; but if the relation does not exist of itself 
we force it by emphasis, which can, of course, make 
any syllable as long as desired; or, by an effort we 
can pronounce with unnatural brevity a syllable that 
is naturally too long. Accented syllables are, of 
course, always, long, but, where tmencumbered with 
consonants, must be classed among the unnaturally 
long. Mere custom has declared that we shall accent 
them, that is to say, dwell upon them; but no 


The Rationale of Verse 

inevitable lingual difficulty forces us to do so. In a 
line, every long syllable must of its own accord occupy 
in its utterance, or must be made to occupy, precisely 
the time demanded for two short ones. The only 
exception to this rule is found in the cassura, of which 
more anon. 

The success of the experiment with the trochees or 
iambuses (the one would have suggested the other) 
must have led to a trial of dactyls or anapaests, 
natural dactyls or anapaests, dactylic or anapaestic 
words. And now some degree of complexity has been 
attained. There is an appreciation, first, of the equal- 
ity between the several dactyls or anapaests, and, sec- 
ondly, of that between the long syllable and the two 
short conjointly. But here it may be said that step 
after step would have been taken, in continuation of 
this routine, until all the feet of the Greek prosodies 
became exhausted. Not so: these remaining feet 
have no existence except in the brains of the scholiasts. 
It is needless to imagine men inventing these things, 
and folly to explain how and why they invented them, 
tmtil it shall be first shown that they are actually in- 
vented. All other " feet " than those which I have 
specified are, if not impossible at first view, merely 
combinations of the specified ; and, although this asser- 
tion is rigidly true, I will, to avoid misunderstanding, 
put it in a somewhat different shape. I will say, then, 
that at present I am aware of no rhythm — nor do I 


The Rationale of Verse 

believe that any one can be constructed — which, in its 
last analysis, will not be found to consist altogether of 
the feet I have mentioned, either existing in their in- 
dividual and obvious condition, or interwoven with 
each other in accordance with simple natural laws 
which I will endeavor to point out hereafter. 

We have now gone so far as to suppose men con- 
structing indefinite sequences of spondaic, iambic, 
trochaic, dactylic, or anapasstic words. In extending 
these sequences, they would be again arrested by the 
sense of monotone. A succession of spondees would 
inmiediately h,ave displeased; one of iambuses or of 
trochees, on account of the variety included within the 
foot Itself, would have taken longer to displease ; one 
of dactyls or anapaests, still longer; but even the last, 
if extended very far, must have become wearisome. 
The idea, first, of curtailing, and, secondly, of defin- 
ing the length of a sequence, would thus at once have 
arisen. Here, then, is the line, or verse proper.' The 
principle of equality being constantly at the bottom of 
the whole process, lines would naturally be made, in 
the first instance, equal in the nimiber of their feet; 
in the second instance, there would be variation in the 
mere nimiber: one line would be twice as long as 

* Verse, from the Latin rertere (to turn) is so called on account of the 
turning or recommencement of the series of feet Thus a verse, strictly 
speaking, is a line. In this sense, however, I have preferred u^ng the latter 
word alone; employing the former in the general acceptation given it in the 
heading of this paper. 


The Rationale of Verse 

another; then one would be some less obvious mul- 
tiple of another; then still less obvious proportions 
would be adopted; nevertheless there wovild be pro- 
portion, that is to say, a phase of equality, still. 

Lines being once introduced, the necessity of dis- 
tinctly defining these lines to the ear (as yet, written 
verse does not exist) would lead to a scrutiny of their 
capabilities at their terminations; and now would 
spring up the idea of equality in sound between the 
final syllables — ^in other words, of rh3rme. First, it 
would be used only in the iambic, anapasstic, and 
spondaic rhythms (granting that the ^tter had not 
been thrown aside long since on accotmt of its 
tameness), because in these rhythms the concluding 
syllable, being long, could best sustain the necessary 
protraction of the voice. No great while could elapse, 
however, before the effect, found pleasant as well as 
useful, would be applied to the two remaining rhythms. 
But as the chief force of rhjrme must lie in the accented 
syllable, the attempt to create rhjrme at all in. these 
two remaining rhythms, the trochaic and dactylic, 
would necessarily result in double and triple rhymes, 
such as "beauty" with "duty" (trochaic) and "beau- 
tiful" with "dutiful" (dactyUc). 

It must be observed that in suggesting these pro- 
cesses I assign them no date ; nor do I even insist upon 
their order. Rhjrme is supposed to be of modem 
origin, and were this proved, my positions remain un- 


The Rationale of Verse 

touched. I may say, however, in passing, that several 
instances of rh3rme occur in the Clouds of Aristophanes, 
and that the Roman poets occasionally employ it. 
There is an effective species of ancient rhjrming which 
has never descended to the modems: that in which 
the ultimate and penvdtimate syllables rhyme with each 
other. For example : 

Parturiunt montes et nasdtur ridicu/cM mu$0 

And again: 

litoreis ingens inventa sub ilidibas $u». 

The terminations of Hebrew verse, as far as tmder- 
stood, show no signs of rh3rme; but what thinking 
person can doubt that it did actually exist ? That men 
have so obstinately and blindly insisted, in general, 
even up to the present day, in confining rhjrme to the 
ends of lines when its effect is even better applicable 
elsewhere, intimates, in my opinion, the sense of some 
necessity in the connection of the end with the rhjrme, 
hints that the origin of rhjait lay in a necessity 
which connected it with the end, shows that neither 
mere accident nor mere fancy gave rise to the connec- 
tion, points, in a word, at the very necessity which 
I have suggested (that of some mode of defining lines 
to the ear) as the true origin of rhjrme. Admit this, 
and we throw the origin far back in the night of time, 
beyond the origin of written verse. 

But to resimie. The amount of complexity I have 


The Rationale of Verse 

now supposed to be attained is very considerable. 
Various systems of equalization are appreciated at 
once, or nearly so, in their respective values and in 
the value of each system with reference to all the 
others. As our present ultimatum of complexity we 
have arrived at triple-rhymed, natural-dactylic lines, 
existing proportionally, as well as equally, with regard 
to other triple-rh)rmed, natural-dactylic lines. For 
example : 

"^^ginal Lilian, rigidly, humblily dutiful; 

Saintlily, lowlily, 

ThriUingly, holily 

Here we appreciate, first, the absolute equality be- 
tween the long syllable of each dactyl and the two 
short conjointly; secondly, the absolute equality be- 
tween each dactyl and any other dactyl — in other 
words, among all the dactyls; thirdly, the absolute 
equality between the two middle lines; fourthly, the 
absolute equality between the first line and the three 
others taken conjointly; fifthly, the absolute equality 
between the last two syllables of the respective words 
" dutiful " and " beautiful " ; sixthly, the absolute 
equality between the last two syllables of the respec- 
tive words " lowlily " and " holily " ; seventhly, the 
proximate equality between the first syllable of " duti- 
ful " and the first syllable of " beautiful " ; eighthly, 
the proximate equality between the first syllable of 


The Rationale of Verse 

** lowUly " and that of " holily " ; ninthly^ the pro- 
portional equality (that of five to one) between the 
first line and each of its memberSi the dactyls ; tenthly, 
the proportional equality (that of two to one) between 
each of the middle lines and its members, the dactyls; 
eleventhly, the proportional equality between the first 
line and each of the two middle — ^that of five to two ; 
twelfthly, the proportional equality between the first 
line and the last — ^that of five to one ; thirteenthly, the 
proportional equality between each of the middle lines 
and the last — that of two to one; lastiy, the propor- 
tional equality as concerns number between all the 
lines taken collectively and any individual line — that 
of four to one. 

The consideration of this last equality wovild give 
birth immediately to the idea of stanza * ; that is to 
say, the insulation of lines into equal or obviously 
proportional masses. In its primitive (which was also 
its best) form, the stanza would most probably have 
had absolute tmity. In other words, the removal of 
any one of its lines would have rendered it imperfect; 
as in the case above, where, if the last line, for ex- 
ample, be taken away, there is left no rh3rme to the 
'^ dutifvil " of the first. Modem stanza is excessively 
loose, and, where so, ineffective, as a matter of course. 

Now, although in the deliberate written statement 
which I have here given of these various systems of 

* A stanza is often vulgarly, and with gross impropriety, called a verse. 


The Rationale of Verse 

equalities, there seems to be an infinity of complexity, 
— so much that it is hard to conceive the mind taking 
cognizance of them all in the brief period occupied by 
the perusal or recital of the stanza; yet the difficulty 
is, in fact, apparent only when we will it to become so. 
Any one fond of mental experiment may satisfy him- 
self by trial that, in listening to the lines, he does 
actually, although with a seeming tmconsciousness on 
accotmt of the rapid evolutions of sensation, recognize 
and instantaneously appreciate, more or less intensely 
as his ear is cultivated, each and all of the equaliza- 
tions detailed. The pleasure received, or receivable, 
has very much such progressive increase, and in very 
nearly such mathematical relations as those which I 
have suggested in the case of the crystal. 

It will be observed that I speak of merely a proxi- 
mate equality between the first syllable of " dutiful " 
and that of " beautiful " ; and it may be asked why 
we cannot imagine the earliest rhymes to have had 
absolute instead of proximate equality of sound. But 
absolute equality would have involved the use of iden- 
tical words ; and it is the duplicate sameness or monot- 
ony — that of sense as well as that of sound — ^which 
would have caused these rhjrmes to be rejected in the 
very first instance. 

The narrowness of the limits within which verse 
composed of nattu*al feet alone must necessarily have 
been confined, would have led, after a very brief inter- 


The Rationale of Verse 

valy to the trial and immediate adoption of artificial 
feet; that is to say, of feet not constituted each of a 
single wordy but two or even three words, or of parts 
of words. These feet would be intermingled with 
natural ones. For example : 

A breath | c&n mAke | th^m &s | & breath | h&s made. 

This is an iambic line in which each iambus is formed 
of two words. Again : 

Th« &i I Ima I ^hi& I bl« might | 6i J6ve. 

This is an iambic line in which the first foot is formed 
of a word and a part of a word; the second and third, 
of parts taken from the body or interior of a word ; the 
fourth, of a part and a whole ; the fifth, of two com- 
plete words. There are no natural feet in either lines. 

can It U I fancied that | DSlty | Sv^r vln | dictlvely 

Made In his | Image a | mannlkin | merely t6 | madden It ? 

These are two dactylic lines in which we find natural 
feet (" Deity," " mannikin "), feet composed of two 
words (" fancied that," " image a," " merely to," 
" madden it "), feet composed of three words (" can it 
be," " made in his "), a foot composed of a part of a 
word (" dictively "), and a foot composed of a word 
and a part of a word (" ever vin "). 

And now, in our supposititious progress, we have 
gone so far as to exhaust all the essentialities of verse. 


The Rationale of Verse 

What follows may, strictly speaking, be regarded as 
embellishment merely, but even in this embellishment 
the rudimental sense of equality would have been the 
never-ceasing impulse. It would, for example, be 
simply in seeking further administration to this sense 
that men would come, in time, to think of the refrain, 
or burden, where, at the closes of the several stanzas 
of a poem, one word or phrase is repeated; and of 
alliteration, in whose simplest form a consonant is 
repeated in the commencements of various words. 
This effect would be extended so as to embrace repeti- 
tions both of vowels and of consonants in the bodies as 
well as in the beginnings of words; and, at a later 
period, would be made to infringe on the province of 
rh3rme by the introduction of general similarity of 
sound between whole feet occurring in the body of a 
line — all of which modifications I have exemjdified in 
the line above, 

Afade in his ixnage a mannihn merely to madden it 

Farther cultivation would improve also the refrain by 
relieving its monotone in slightly varying the phrase 
at each repetition, or, as I have attempted to do in 
TTie Raven, in retaining the phrase and varying its 
application; although this latter point is not strictly a 
rh3rthniical effect alone. Finally, poets when fairly 
wearied with following precedent — ^following it the 
more closely the less they perceived it in company with 


The Rationale of Verse 

reason — ^would adventtire so far as to indulge in posi- 
tive rhjrme at other points than the ends of lines. 
First, they would put it in the middle of the line ; then 
at some point where the multiple would be less obvious ; 
then, alarmed at their own audacity, they would 
undo all their work by cutting these lines in two. 
And here is the fruitful source of the infinity of 
** short metre," by which modem poetry, if not distin- 
guished, is at least disgraced. It would require a high 
degree, indeed, both of cultivation and of courage, on 
the part of any versifier, to enable him to place his 
rhymes, and let them remain, at unquestionably 
their best position, that of unusual and unanticipated 

On accotmt of the stupidity of some people, or, if 
talent be a more respectable word, on accotmt of their 
talent for misconception, I think it necessary to add 
here, first, that I believe the " processes " above de- 
tailed to be nearly if not accurately those which did 
occur in the gradual creation of what we now call 
verse ; secondly, that, although I so believe, I yet urge 
neither the asstmied fact nor my belief in it as a part 
of the true propositions of this paper; thirdly, that in 
regard to the aim of this paper it is of no consequence 
whether these processes did occur either in the order 
I have assigned them, or at all; my design being 
simply, in presenting a general type of what such pro- 
cesses might have been and must have resembled, to 


The Rationale of Verse 

help them, the " some people/' to an easy tmderstand- 
ing of what I have further to say on the topic of Verse. 

There is one point which, in my sunmiary of the 
processes, I have purposely forborne to touch; because 
this point, being the most important of all, on account 
of the immensity of error usually involved in its con- 
sideration, would have led me into a series of detail 
inconsistent with the object of a sunmiary. 

Every reader of verse must have observed how sel- 
dom it happens that even any one line proceeds uni- 
formly with a succession, such as I have supposed, of 
absolutely equal feet ; that is to say, with a succession 
of iambuses only, or of trochees only, or of dactyls 
only, or of anapaests only, or of spondees only. Even 
in the most musical lines we find the succession in- 
terrupted. The iambic pentameters of Pope, for ex- 
ample, will be fotmd, on examination, frequently varied 
by trochees in the beginning, or by, what seem to be, 
anapaests in the body, of the line. 

dh thofi I wh&te I vSr ti I tlS plSase | thine ear 
D«an Drft | pUr Bick | grstAff | 6r GiU | ivSr 
Whether I th6u chodse | CSrvan | tSs' sS | rioi&s air 
6r laiigh I &nd shake | in R&b | £l&is' to | sy chflir. 

Were any one weak enough to refer to the prosodies 
for the solution of the difficulty here, he would find it 
solved, as usual, by a rule, stating the fact, or what it, 
the rule, supposes to be the fact, but without the 
slightest attempt at the rationale. ^' By a sjrnaeresis of 


The Rationale of Verse 

the two short syllables/' say the books, ** an anapaest 
may sometimes be employed for an iambus, or a dac- 
tyl for a trochee. • • • In the beginning of a line 
a trochee is often used for an iambus.'' 

** Blending " is the plain English for ** synaeresis/' 
but there should be no blending; neither is an anapaest 
ever employed for an iambus, or a dactyl for a trochee. 
These feet differ in time ; and no feet so differing can 
ever be legitimately used in the same line. An ana- 
paest is equal to four short syllables, an iambus only 
to three. Dactyls and trochees hold the same relation. 
The principle of equality in verse admits, it is true, of 
variation at certain points for the relief of monotone, 
as I have already shown, but the point of time is that 
point which, being the rudimental one, must never be 
tampered with at all. 

To explain: — In further efforts for the relief of 
monotone than those to which I have alluded in the 
summary, men soon came to see that there was no 
absolute necessity for adhering to the precise number 
of syllables, provided the time required for the whole 
foot was preserved inviolate. They saw, for instance, 
that in such a line as 

5r laligh | &nd shftke | In RAb | Sl&is' Sa | sy chflir, 

the equalization of the three syllables << elais' ea " with 
the two syllables composing any of the other feet, 
could be readily effected by pronouncing the two syl- 

VOL.I.— X5. 225 

The Rationale of Verse 

lables ** elais' ** in double-quick time. By pronouncing 
each of the syllables " e " and " lais* " twice as rapidly 
as the syllable " sy," or the syllable " in," or any other 
syllable, they could bring the two of them, taken to- 
gether, to the length, that is to say, to the time, of any 
one short syllable. This consideration enabled them 
to effect the agreeable variation of three syllables in 
place of the imif orm two. And variation was the object 
— ^variation to the ear. What sense is there, then, in 
supposing this object rendered null by the blending of 
the two syllables so as to render them, in absolute 
effect, one ? Of course, there must be no blending* 
Each syllable must be pronounced as distinctly as pos- 
sible, or the variation is lost, but with twice the rapid- 
ity in which the ordinary syllable is enunciated. That 
the syllables <*elais' ea'' do not compose an anapaest is 
evident, and the signs (S^a) of their accentuation are 
erroneous. The foot might be written thus : '' aSa," the 
inverted crescents expressing double-quick time; and 
might be called a bastard iambus. 
Here is a trochaic line : 

S«e thS I dSUc&te | f dotSd | reindeer. 

The prosodies — that is to say, the most considerate of 
them — would here decide that '' delicate " is a dactyl 
used in place of a trochee, and would refer to what 
they call their " rule," for justification. Others, 
var3ring the stupidity, would insist upon a Procrustean 


The Rationale of Verse 

adjustment thus : ** dePcate " — an adjustment recom- 
mended to all such words as << silvery,'* '* murmuring/' 
etc., which, it is said, should be not only pronounced but 
written " silv'ry," " murm'ring," and so on, whenever 
they find themselves in trochaic predicament. I have 
only to say that ^^ delicate," when circumstanced as 
above, is neither a dactyl nor a dactyl's equivalent ; that 
I would suggest for it this (aSSi) accentuation ; that I 
think it as well to call it a bastard trochee ; and that 
all words, at all events, should be written and pro- 
nounced in full, and as nearly as possible as nature 
intended them. 

About eleven years ago, there appeared in the 
American Monthly Magazine (then edited, I believe, by 
Messrs. Hoffman and Benjamin) a review of Mr. Wil- 
lis's Poemsf the critic putting forth his strength or his 
weakness in an endeavor to show that the poet was 
either absurdly affected or grossly ignorant of the laws 
of verse ; the accusation being based altogether on the 
fact that Mr. W. made occasional use of this very word 
'* delicate," and other similar words, in '^ the heroic 
measure, which every one knew consisted of feet of 
two syllables." Mr. W. has often, for example, such 
lines as 

" That binds him to a woman's delicate love." 
" In the gay sunshine, reverent in the storm.'* 
*' With its Invisible fingers my loose hair." 


The Rationale of Verse 

Here, of course, the feet " licate love,*' ** verent in," 
and ** sible fin " are bastard iambuses ; are not an- 
apaests ; and are not improperly used. Their employ- 
ment, on the contrary, by Mr. Willis, is but one of 
the innumerable instances he has given of keen sen- 
sibility in all those matters of taste which may be classed 
tmder the general head of ^' fanciful embellishment." 
It is also about eleven years ago, if I am not mistaken, 
since Mr. Home, of England, the author of Orion, 
one of the noblest epics in any language, thought it 
necessary to preface his Chaucer Modernized by a very 
long and evidently a very elaborate essay, of which the 
greater portion was occupied in a discussion of the 
seemingly anomalous foot of which we have been 
speaking. Mr. Home upholds Chaucer in its frequent 
use; maintains his superiority, on account of his so 
frequently using it, over all English versifiers; and, 
indignantly repelling the common idea of those who 
make verse on their fingers, that the superfiuous syl- 
lable is a roughness and an error, very chivalrously 
makes battle for it as '' a grace." That a grace it is, 
there can be no doubt; and what I complain of is that 
the author of the most happily versified long poem in 
existence should have been under the necessity of dis- 
cussing this grace merely as a grace, through forty or 
fifty vague pages, solely because of his inability to 
show how and why it is a grace — ^by which showing 
the question would have been settled in an instant. 


The Rationale of Verse 

About the trochee used for an iambus, as we see in 
the beginning of the line, 

WhSthSr thou choose Cervantes' serious air, 

there is little that need be said. It brings me to the 
general proposition that in all rhythms the prevalent 
or distinctive feet may be varied at will, and nearly at 
random, by the occasional introduction of equivalent 
feet; that is to say, feet the sum of whose syllabic 
times is equal to the sum of the syllabic times of the 
distinctive feet. Thus the trochee ^^ whether " is equal, 
in the sum of the times of its syllables, to the iambus 
*^ thou choose " in the sum of the times of its syllables, 
each foot being, in time, equal to three short syllables. 
Good versifiers, who happen to be, also, good poets, 
contrive to relieve the monotone of a series of feet by 
the use of equivalent feet only at rare intervals, and at 
such points of their subject as seem in accordance with 
the startling character of the variation. Nothing of 
this care is seen in the line quoted above, although 
Pope has some fine instances of the duplicate effect. 
Where vehemence is to be strongly expressed I am not 
sure that we should be wrong in venturing on two con- 
secutive equivalent feet, although I cannot say that I 
have ever known the adventure made, except in the 
following passage, which occurs in Al Aaraaf, a boy- 
ish poem, written by myself when a boy. I am refer- 
ring to the sudden and rapid advent of a star: 


The Rationale of Verse 

Dim was its little disk, and angel eyes 
Alone could see the phantom in the skies, 
WhSn first tU ph&nt5m's cdurse w&s foAnd t6 bS 
Headt6ng bithirwaid o'er the starry sea. 

In the '^ general proposition " above I speak of the 
occasional introduction of equivalent feet. It some- 
times happens that unskilful versifiers, without know- 
ing what they do, or why they do it, introduce so many 
variations as to exceed in number the distinctive 
feet; when the ear becomes at once balked by the 
bouleversement of the rhythm. Too many trochees, 
for example, inserted in an iambic rhythm, would con- 
vert the latter to a trochaic. I may note here that, in 
all cases, the rhythm designed should be commenced 
and continued, without variation, until the ear has had 
full time to comprehend what is the rhythm.. In vio- 
lation of a rule so obviously founded in common sense, 
many even of our best poets do not scruple to begin an 
iambic rhythm with a trochee, or the converse ; or a 
dactylic with an anapaest, or the converse ; and so on. 

A somewhat less objectionable error, although still 
a decided one, is that of commencing a rhythm, not 
with a different equivalent foot, but with a bastard 
foot of the rhythm, intended. For example : 

M&ny & I thdught ^dll | cdme t5 | mSm5ry. 

Here *^ many a " is what I have explained to be a bastard 
trochee, and to be understood should be accented with 


The Rationale of Verse 

inverted crescents. It is objectionable solely on ac- 
count of its position as the opening foot of a trochaic 
rhythm. <* Memory'' similarly accented, is also a 
bastard trochee, but unobjectionable, although by no 
means demanded. 

The further illustration of this point will enable me 
to take an important step. 

One of the finest poets, Mr. Christopher Pearse 
Cranch, begins a very beautiful poem thus: 

Many are the thoughts that come to me 

In my lonely musing; 
And they drift so strange and swift 

There 's no time for choosing 
Which to follow ; for to leave 

Any, seems a losing. 

**A losing" to Mr. Cranch, of coiu-se — ^but this en 
passant It will be seen here that the intention is 
trochaic, although we do not see this intention by the 
opening foot, as we should do, or even by the opening 
line. Reading the whole stanza, however, we per* 
ceive the trochaic rhjrthm as the general design, and 
so, after some reflection, we divide the first line thus : 

Many are the | thdughts th&t | cdme t5 | mS. 

Thus scanned, the line will seem musical. It is — 
highly so. And it is because there is no end to in- 
stances of just such lines of apparently incomprehen- 
sible music, that Coleridge thought proper to invent 
his nonsensical system of what he calls '* scanning by 


The Rationale of Verse 

accents " — as if " scanning by accents " were any- 
thing more than a phrase. Wherever Cbrhtabel is 
really not rough, it can be as readily scanned by the 
true laws, not the supposititious rules, of verse as can 
the simplest pentameter of Pope; and where it is 
rough (passim) J these same laws will enable any one of 
common sense to show why it is rough, and to point 
out instantaneously the remedy for the roughness. 

A reads and re-reads a certain line and pronounces it 
false in rhythm, tmmusical. Bf however, reads it to 
A, and A is at once struck with the perfection of the 
rh3rthm and wonders at his dulness in not '^ catching '' 
it before. Henceforward he admits the line to be 
musical. B, triumphant, asserts that, to be sure, the 
line is musical, — ^for it is the work of Coleridge, — and 
that it is A who is not; the fault being in A^s false 
reading. Now here A is right and B wrong. That 
rhythm is erroneous (at some point or other more or 
less obvious) which any ordinary reader can, without 
design, read improperly. It is the business of the poet 
so to construct his line that the intention must be 
caught at once. Even when these men have precisely 
the same understanding of a sentence, they differ, and 
often widely, in their modes of enunciating it. Any one 
who has taken the trouble to examine the topic of em- 
phasis (by which I here mean not accent of particular 
syllables, but the dwelling on entire words), must have 
seen that men emphasize in the most singularly arbi- 


The Rationale of Verse 

trary manner. There are certain large classes of people, 
for example, who persist in emphasizing their mono- 
syllables. Little imiformity of emphasis prevails; be- 
cause the thing itself — the idea, emphasis — is referable 
to no natural, at least to no well-comprehended and 
therefore imiform, law. Beyond a very narrow and 
vague limit the whole matter is conventionality. And 
if we differ in emphasis even when we agree in com- 
prehension, how much more so in the former when in 
the latter too ! Apart, however, from the consideration 
of natural disagreement, is it not clear that, by trip- 
ping here and mouthing there, any sequence of words 
may be twisted into any species of rhjrthm ? But are 
we thence to deduce that all sequences of words are 
rhythmical in a rational understanding of the term ? — 
for this is the deduction, precisely, to which the reductio 
ad absutdum will in the end bring all the propositions 
of Coleridge. Out of a htmdred readers of Cbristabel, 
fifty will be able to make nothing of its rhythm, while 
forty-nine of the remaining fifty will, with some ado, 
fancy they comprehend it after the fourth or fifth peru- 
sal. The one out of the whole hundred who shall both 
comprehend and admire it at first sight must be an 
tmaccountably clever person, and I am by far too 
modest to assume for a moment that that very clever 
person is myself. 

In illustration of what is here advanced I cannot do 
better than quote a poem: 

The Rationale of Verse 

Pease porridge hot — pease porridge cold — 
Pease porridge in the pot — nine days old. 

Now those of my readers who have never heard this 
poem pronounced according to the nursery conven- 
tionality will find its rh3rthm as obscure as an explana- 
tory note ; while those who have heard it will divide it 
thus, declare it musical, and wonder how there can be 
any doubt about it. 

Pease I porridge | hot I pease | porridge I cold | 
Pease I porridge | in the | pot | nine | days | old. | 

The chief thing in the way of this species of rhythm 
is the necessity which it imposes upon the poet of trav- 
elling in constant company with his compositions, so 
as to be ready at a moment's notice to avail himself of 
a well-understood poetical license — ^that of reading 
aloud one's own doggerel. 
In Mr. Cranch's line, 

Many are the | thoughts that | come to | me, 

the general error of which I speak is, of course, very 
partially exemplified, and the purpose for which, 
chiefly, I cite it lies yet farther on in our topic. 

The two divisions, "thoughts that " and " come to," 
are ordinary trochees. Of the last division, " me,** we 
will talk hereafter. The first division, " many are the,** 
would be thus accented by the Greek prosodies : " many 
Sre thS," and would be called by them dcrrpoXoyos. 


The Rationale of Verse 

The Latin books would style the foot po^on primus, 
and both Greek and Latin would swear that it was 
composed of a trochee and what they term a pyrrhic; 
that is to say, a foot of two short syllables, a thing 
that cannot be, as I shall presently show. 

But now there is an obvious difficulty. The astroU 
ogosf according to the prosodies' own showing, is 
equal to five short syllables and the trochee to three; 
yet, in the line quoted, these two feet are equal. They 
occupy precisely the same time. In fact, the whole 
music of the line depends upon their being made to 
occupy the same time. The prosodies, then, have 
demonstrated what all mathematicians have stupidly 
failed in demonstrating — ^that three and five are one 
and the same thing. 

After what I have already said, however, about the 
bastard trochee and the bastard iambus, no one can 
have any trouble in understanding that ^* many are 
the " is of similar character. It is merely a bolder vari- 
ation than usual from the routine of trochees, and in- 
troduces to the bastard trochee one additional syllable. 
But this syllable is not short. That is, it is not short 
in the sense of << short " as applied to the final syllable 
of the ordinary trochee, where the word means merely 
the half of long. 

In this case (that of the additional syllable), '' short," 
if used at all, must be used in the sense of the sixth 
of long. And all the three final syllables can be called 


The Rationale of Verse 

short only with the same understanding of the term. 
The three together are equal only to the one short syl- 
lable (whose place they supply) of the ordinary trochee. 
It follows that there is no sense in thus (^) accenting 
these syllables. We must devise for them some new 
character which shall denote the sixth of long. Let it 
be (c)y the crescent placed with the curve to the left. 
The whole foot, ^^ many Sre thS,'* might be called a 
" quick trochee." 

We come now to the final division, " me,** of Mr. 
Cranch's line. It is clear that this foot, short as it 
appears, is fully equal in time to each of the preceding. 
It is, in fact, the caesura, the foot which, in the begin- 
ning of this paper, I called the most important in all 
verse. Its chief office is that of pause or termination ; 
and here, at the end of a line, its use is easy, because 
there is no danger of misapprehending its value. We 
pause on it, by a seeming necessity, just as long as it 
has taken us to pronounce the preceding feet, whether 
iambuses, trochees, dactyls, or anapaests. It is thus a 
variable foot, and, with some care, may be well intro- 
duced into the body of a line, as in a little poem of 
great beauty by Mrs. Welby : 

I have I a lit I tie step { son | of on | ly three | years old. 

Here we dwell on the caesura, '^ son," just as long as it 
requires us to pronounce either of the preceding or 
succeeding iambuses. Its value, therefore, in this 


The Rationale of Verse 

line, is that of three short syllables. In the following 
dactylic line its value is that of four short syllables: 

Pale as a | lily was | Emily | Gray. 

I have accentuated the cs^ura with a dotted line ( ) 

by way of expressing this variability of value. 

I observed just now that there could be no such foot 
as one of two short syllables. What we start from in 
the very beginning of all idea on the topic of verse is 
quantity, length. Thus, when we enunciate an inde- 
pendent syllable it is long, as a matter of course. 
If we enunciate two, dwelling on both equally, we ex- 
press equality in the enumeration or length, and havB 
a right to call them two long syllables. If we dwell on 
one more than the other, we have also a right to call 
one short, because it is short in relation to the other. 
But if we dwell on both equally and with a tripping 
voice, saying to ourselves, here are two short syllables, 
the query might well be asked of us, '* In relation to 
what are they short ?" Shortness is but the negation 
of length. To say, then, that two syllables, placed in- 
dependently of any other syllable, are short, is merely 
to say that they have no positive length or entmciation, 
in other words that they are no syllables, that they do 
not exist at all. And if, persisting, we add anything 
about their equality, we are merely floundering in the 
idea of an identical equation, where, x being equal to 
X, nothing is shown to be equal to zero. In a word, 


The Rationale of Verse 

we can form no conception of a pjrrMc as of an inde- 
pendent foot. It is a mere chimera bred in the mad 
fancy of a pedant. 

From what I have said about the equalization of the 
several feet of a line, it must not be deduced that any 
necessity for equality in time exists between the rhythm 
of several lines. A poem, or even a stanza, may begin 
with iambuses in the first line and proceed with ana- 
paests in the second, or even with the less accordant 
dactyls, as in the opening of quite a pretty specimen of 
verse by Miss Mary A. S. Aldrich : 

The wa | ter li | ly sleeps | in pride | 

Ddwn In thS | depths 5f thg | kztie \ lake. 

Here *' azure " is a spondee, equivalent to a dactyl ; 
" lake," a caesura. 

I shall now best proceed in quoting the initial lines of 
Byron's Bride ofAbydost 

Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle 

Are emblems of deeds that are done in their dime. 
Where the rage of the vulture, the love of the turtle, 

Now melt into softness, now madden to crime? 
Know ye the land of the cedar and vine, 
Where the flowers ever blossom, the beams ever shine, 
And the light wings of Zephyr, oppressed with perfume, 
Wax faint o'er the gardens of Gul in her bloom ? 
Where the citron and olive are fairest of fruit 
And the voice of the nightingale never is mute — 
Where the virgins are soft as the roses they twine. 
And all save the spirit of man is divine? 


The Rationale of Verse 

T is the clime of the East; 't is the land of the Sun — 
Can he smile on such deeds as his children have done? 
Oh, wild as the accents of lovers' farewell 
Are the hearts that they bear and the tales that they tell I 

Now the flow of these lines, as times go, is very sweet 
and musical. They have been often admired, and 
justly, — as times go ; that is to say, it is a rare thing to 
find better versification of its kind* And where verse 
is pleasant to the ear, it is silly to find fault with it 
because it refuses to be scanned. Yet I have heard 
men, professing to be scholars, who made no scruple 
of abusing these lines of Byron's on the ground that 
they were musical in spite of all law. Other gentle- 
men, not scholars, abused *^ all law " for the same 
reason ; and it occurred neither to the one party nor 
to the other that the law about which they were dis- 
puting might possibly be no law at all — an ass of a law 
in the ^dn of a lion. 

The grammars said something about dactylic lines, 
and it was easily seen that these lines were at least 
meant for dactylic. The first one was, therefore, thus 
divided : 

Kndw yg thS | l&nd whSre thS | cypress &nd | myrtlS. | 

The concluding foot was a mystery; but the prosodies 
said something about the dactylic '' measure " calling 
now and then for a double rhyme; and the court of 
inquiry were content to rest in the double rhyme, with- 
out exactly perceiving what a double rhyme had to do 


The Rationale of Verse 

with the question of an irregular foot. Quitting the 
first line, the second was thus scanned : 

Ar£ ^mbl^ms | Of d^eds th&t | ftre d6ne in | thhir dime. | 

It was immediately seen, however, that this would not 
do, it was at war with the whole emphasis of the read- 
ing. It could not be supposed that B3n:on, or any one 
in his senses, intended to place stress upon such mono- 
syllables as " are," ". of," and " their," nor could 
" their clime," collated with " to crime " in the cor- 
responding line below, be fairly twisted into anjrthing 
like a " double rhyme," so as to bring everjrthing 
within the category of the grammars. But further 
these grammars spoke not. The inquirers, therefore, 
in spite of their sense of harmony in the lines, when 
considered without reference to scansion, fell back 
upon the idea that the " Are " was a blunder, — an 
excess for which the poet should be sent to Coventry, — 
and, striking it out, they scanned the remainder of the 
line as follows : 

Smbl^ms 6f | dSeds th&t &re | dOne in th^ir | cUme. | 

This answered pretty well ; but the grammars admitted 
no such foot as a foot of one syllable ; and, besides, the 
rhjrthm was dactylic. In despair, the books are well 
searched, however, and at last the investigators are 
gratified by a full solution of the riddle in the profound 
*^ observation " quoted in the beginning of this article : 
** When a syllable is wanting the verse is said to be 


The Rationale of Verse 

catalectic ; when the measure is exact, the line is acata- 

lectic; when there is a redundant syllable it forms 

hypermeter." This is enough. The anomalous line 

is pronounced to be catalectic at the head and to form 

hypermeter at the tail, and so on, and so on ; it being 

soon discovered that nearly all the remaining lines are 

in a similar predicament, and that what flows so 

smoothly to the ear, although so roughly to the eye, is, 

after all, a mere jumble of cafalecticism, acatalecti- 

cism, and hypermeter — not to say worse. 

Now, had this cotut of inquiry been in possession of 

even the shadow of the philosophy of verse, they would 

have had no trouble in reconciling this oil and water 

of the eye and ear by merely scanning the passage 

without reference to lines, and continuously, thus : 

Know ye the | land where the | C3rpress and | myrtle Are | 
emblems of | deeds that are | done in their | clime Where 
the I rage of the | vulture the | love of the | turtle Now 
melt into | softness now | madden to | crime \ Know ye the 
land of the | cedar and | vine Where the | flowers ever 
blossom the | beams ever | shine Where the { light wings of 
Zephyr op | pressed with per \ fume Wax | faint o'er the 
gardens of | Gul in her | bloom Where the | citron and 
olive are | fairest of | fruit And the | voice of the | nightin- 
gale I never is | mute Where the | virgins are | soft as the 
roses they | twine And \ all save the | spirit of | man is di 
vine 'T is the | clime of the | East 't is the | land of the | Sun 
Can he | smile on such { deeds as his | children have | done 
Ob I wild as the | accents of { lovers' fare { well Are the | 
hearts that they | bear and the | tales that they | tell 

v6l.i.— i6. 241 

The Rationale of Verse 

Here " crime " and " tell " (italicized) are caesuras, 
each having the value of a dactyl, four short syllables; 
while " ftune Wax," " twine And," and " done Oh " 
are spondees, which, of course, being composed of two 
long syllables, are also equal to four short, and are the 
dactyl's natural equivalent. The nicety of Byron's ear 
has led him into a succession of feet which, with two 
trivial exceptions as regards melody, are absolutely 
accurate — a very rare occurrence this in dactylic or 
anapaestic rhythms. The exceptions are found in the 
spondee " twine And," and the dactyl " smile on 
such." Both feet are false in point of melody. In 
" twine And," to make out the rhjrthm we must force 
" And " into a length which it will not naturally bear. 
We are called on to sacrifice either the proper length 
of the syllable as demanded by its position as a member 
of a spondee, or the customary accentuation of the 
word in conversation. There is no hesitation, and 
should be none. We at once give up the soimd for the 
sense ; and the rhjrthm is imperfect. In this instance 
it is very slightly so ; not one person in ten thousand 
could, by ear, detect the inaccuracy. But the perfec- 
tion of verse, as regards melody, consists in its never 
demanding any such sacrifice as is here demanded. 
The rhjrthmical must agree thoroughly with the read- 
ing flow. This perfection has in no instance been 
attained, but is unquestionably attainable. ^' Smile on 
such," the dactyl, is incorrect, because " such," from 


The Rationale of Verse 

the character of the two consonants '^ ch," cannot easily 
be enunciated in the ordinary time of a short syllable, 
which its position declares that it is. Almost every 
reader will be able to appreciate the slight difficulty 
here ; and yet the error is by no means so important as 
that of the " And " in the spondee. By dexterity we 
may pronoimce ^^ such '' in the true time ; but the 
attempt to remedy the rhythmical deficiency of the 
" And " by drawing it out, merely aggravates the of- 
fence against natural enunciation by directing atten- 
tion to the offence. 

Hy main object, however, in quoting these lines, is 
to show that, in spite of the prosodies, the length of a 
line is entirely an arbitrary matter. We might divide 
the commencement of B3n:on's poem thus : 

Know ye the | land where the | 

or thus: 

Know ye the | land where the | cypress and | 
or thus : 

Know ye the | land where the | C3rpress and | myrtle are | 
or thus: 

Know ye the | land where the | C3rpress and | myrtle are | 
emblems of | 

In short, we may give it any division we please, and 
the lines will be good, provided we have at least two 
feet in a line. As in mathematics two units are re- 
quired to form number, so rhjrthm (from the Greek 


The Rationale of Verse 

dpiOfios^ number) demands for its formation at least 
two feet. Beyond doubt, we often see such lines as. 

Know ye the — 
Land where the — 

lines of one foot; and our prosodies admit such, but 
with impropriety; for common sense would dictate 
that every so obvious division of a poem as is 
made by a line should include within itself all that is 
necessary for its own comprehension ; but in a line of 
one foot we can have no appreciation of rhythm, which 
depends upon the equality between two or more pul- 
sations. The false Imes, consisting sometimes of a 
single caesura, which are seen in mock Pindaric odes, 
are of course rhythmical only in connection with 
some other line; and it is this want of independent 
rh3rthm which adapts them to the purposes of burlesque 
alone. Their effect is that of incongruity (the prin- 
ciple of mirth), for they include the blankness of prose 
amid the harmony of verse. 

Hy second object in quoting B3n:on's lines was that 
of showing how absurd it often is to cite a single line 
from amid the body of a poem, for the purpose of in- 
stancing the perfection or imperfection of the line's 
rhjrthm. Were we to see by itself 

Know ye the land where the cypress and myrtle, 
we might justly condemn it as defective in the final 
foot, which is equal to only three, instead of being 
equal to four, short syllables. 


The Rationale of Verse 

In the foot '' flowers ever," we shall find a further 
exemplification of the principle of the bastard iambus, 
bastard trochee, and quick trochee, as I have been at 
some pains in describing these feet above. All the 
prosodies on English verse would insist upon making 
an elision in " flowers," thus, " flowers," but this is 
nonsense. In the quick trochee ^' many are the," 
occurring in Mr. Cranch's trochaic line, we had to 
equalize the time of the three syllables, ^' many, are, 
the," to that of the one short syllable whose position 
they usurp. Accordingly each of these syllables is 
equal to the third of a short syllable ; that is to say, the 
sixth of a long. But in B3n:on's dactylic rhythm we 
have to eqtudize the time of the three syllables, ^^ ers, 
ev, er," to that of the one long syllable whose position 
they usurp, or (which is the same thing) of the two 
short. Therefore the value of each of the syllables 
** ers, ev, and er " is the third of a long. We enun- 
ciate them with only half the rapidity we employ in 
enunciating the three flnal syllables of the quick 
trochee, which latter is a rare foot. The " flowers 
ever," on the contrary, is as common in the dactylic 
rhjrthm as is the bastard trochee in the trochaic, or the 
bastard iambus in the iambic. We may as well accent 
it with the curve of the crescent to the right and call 
it a bastard dactyl. A bastard anapaest, whose nature 
I now need be at no trouble in explaining, will of 
course occur, now and then, in an anapaestic rhjrthm. 


The Rationale of Verse 

In order to avoid any chance of that confusion which 
is apt to be introduced in an essay of this kind by too 
sudden and radical an alteration of the convention- 
alities to which the reader has been accustomed, I have 
thought it right to suggest for the accent marks of the 
bastard trochee, bastard iambus, etc., certain char- 
acters which, in merely varying the direction of the 
ordinary short accent (^/), should imply (what is the 
fact) that the feet themselves are not new feet, in any 
proper sense, but simply modifications of the feet, re- 
spectively, from which they derive their names. Thus 
a bastard iambus is, in its essentiality, that is to say, in 
its time, an iambus. The variation lies only in the 
distribution of this time. The time, for example, occu- 
pied by the one short (or half of long) syllable, in the 
ordinary iambus, is, in the bastard, spread equally over 
two syllables, which are accordingly the fourth of long. 

But this fact — the fact of the essentiality, or whole 
time, of the foot being unchanged — is now so fully 
before the reader that I may venture to propose, fi- 
nally, an accentuation which shall answer the real pur- 
pose, that is to say, what should be the real purpose of 
all accentuation, — the purpose of expressing to the eye 
the exact relative value of every syllable employed in 

I have already shown that enunciation, or length, is 
the point from which we start. In other words, we 
begin with a long syllable. This, then, is our unit ; and 


The Rationale of Verse 

there will be no need of accenting it at all. An un- 
accented syllable in a system of accentuation is to be 
regarded always as a long syllable. Thus a spondee 
would be without accent. In an iambus, the first 
syllable, being short, or the half of long, should be 
accented with a small 2, placed beneath the syllable; 
the last syllable, being long, should be unaccented; 
the whole would be thus : control. In a trochee these 

accents would be merely conversed ; thus, manly. In 


a dactyl each of the two final syllables, being the half 
of long, should also be accented with a small 2 beneath 
the syllable ; and, the first syllable left unaccented, the 
whole would be thus : happiness. In an anapaest we 

2 a 

should converse the dactyl ; thus, in the land. In the 

2 2 ■ 

bastard dactyl, each of the three concluding syllables, 

being the third of long, should be accented with a 

small 3 beneath the syllable, and the whole foot would 

stand thus : flowers ever. In the bastard anapaest we 


should converse the bastard dactyl; thus, in the re- 

bound. In the bastard iambus, each of the two initial 

syllables, being the fourth of long, should be accented 

below with a small 4; the whole foot would be thus: 

in the rain. In the bastard trochee we should con- 
4 4 
verse the bastard iambus ; thus, many a. In the quick 

4 4 
trochee, each of the three concluding syllables, being 

the sixth of long, should be accented below with a 


The Rationale of Verse 

small 6 ; the whole foot would be thus : many are the. 

6 6 6 

The quick iambus is not yet created, and most prob- 
ably never will be, for it will be excessively useless, 
awkward, and liable to misconception, — as I have 
already shown that even the quick trochee is, — ^but, 
should it appear, we must accent it by conversing the 
quick trochee. The caesura, being variable in length, 
but always longer than ^' long," should be accented 
above, with a ntmiber expressing the length or value 
of the distinctive foot of the rhythm in which it occurs. 
Thus a caesura occurring in a spondaic rhythm would 
be accented with a small 2 above the syllable, or, 
rather, foot. Occurring in a dactylic or anapaestic 
rhjrthm, we also accent it with the 2 above the foot. 
Occurring in an iambic rhythm, however, it must be 
accented above with i^, for this is the relative value 
of the iambus. Occurring in the trochaic rhythm, we 
give it, of course, the same accentuation. For the 
complex i^, however, it would be advisable to sub- 
stitute the simpler expression, f , which amounts to 
the same thing. 

In this system of accentuation Mr. Cranch's lines, 

quoted above, would thus be written: 


Many are the | thoughts that | come to | me 

6 6 6 2 2 

In my | lonely | musing, | 
22 2 

And they | drift so | strange and | swift 
22 2 

There 's no | time for | choosing 

2 2 3 


The Rationale of Verse 

Which to I follow, I for to I leave 

3 2 2 

Any I seems a | losing, 
a 2 3 

In the ordinary system the accentuation would be 

Mflny ar^ th£ | thoughts th&t | cOme t6 | m6 

In my | l6nely | musing, 
And th^y | drift sO | strAnge &nd | swift 

There 's n5 | time f5r | choOi^g 
Which t5 I fOU5w, | fOr t5 | Uave 

Anjf I seems & | losing. 

It must be observed here that I do not grant this to 
% be the '^ ordinary " scansion. On the contrary, I never 
yet met the man who had the faintest comprehension 
of the true scanning of these lines, or of such as these. 
But granting this to be the mode in which our proso- 
dies would divide the feet, they would accentuate the 
^llables as just above. 

Now, let any reasonable person compare the two 
modes. The first advantage seen in my mode is that 
of simplicity — of time, labor, and ink saved. Coimt- 
ing the fractions as two accents, even, there will be 
found only twenty-six accents to the stanza. In the 
common accentuation there are forty-one. But admit 
that all this is a trifle, which it is not, and let us pro- 
ceed to points of importance. Does the common ac- 
centuation express the truth in particular, in general, 
or in any regard ? Is it consistent with itself ? Does 


The Rationale of Verse 

it convey either to the ignorant or to the scholar a just 
conception of the rhythm of the lines ? Each of these 
questions must be answered in the negative. The 
crescents, being precisely similar, must be understood 
as expressing, all of them, one and the same thing; 
and so all prosodies have alwajrs understood them and 
wished them to be understood. They express, indeed, 
^' short " ; but this word has all kinds of meanings. 
It serves to represent (the reader is left to guess when) 
sometimes the half, sometimes the third, sometimes 
the fourth, sometimes the sixth of " long " ; while 
** long " itself in the books is left imdefined and unde- 
scribed. On the other hand, the horizontal accent, it 
may be said, expresses sufficiently well and imvary- 
ingly the syllables which are meant to be long. It 
does nothing of the kind. This horizontal accent is 
placed over the caesura (wherever, as in the Latin 
prosodies, the caesura is recognized) as well as over the 
ordinary long syllable, and implies anjrthing and every- 
thing, just as the crescent. But grant that it does 
express the ordinary long syllables (leaving the caesura 
out of the question), have I not given the identical 
expression by not employing any expression at aU ? 
In a word, while the prosodies, with a certain number 
of accents express precisely nothing whatever, I, with 
scarcely half the number, have expressed everything 
which, in a system of accentuation, demands expres- 
sion. In glancing at my mode in the lines of Mr. 


The Rationale of Verse 

Cranch it will be seen that it conveys not only the 
exact relation of the syllables and feet among them- 
selves in those particular lines, but their precise value in 
relation to any other existing or conceivable feet or syl- 
lables in any existing or conceivable sjrstem of rhythm. 

The object of what we call scansion is the distinct 
marking of the rhythmical flow. Scansion with ac- 
cents or perpendicular lines between the feet — that is 
to say, scansion by the voice only — is scansion to the 
ear only; and all very good in its way. The written 
scansion addresses the ear through the eye. In either 
case the object is the distinct marking of the rh3rth- 
mical, musical, or reading flow. There can be no 
other object, and there is none. Of course, then, the 
scansion and the reading flow should go hand-in-hand. 
The former must agree with the latter. The former 
represents and expresses the latter ; and is good or bad as 
it truly or falsely represents and expresses it. If by the 
written scansion of a line we are not enabled to per- 
ceive any rhythm or music in the line, then either the 
line is unrhythmical or the scansion false. Apply all 
this to the English lines which we have quoted at vari- 
ous points in the course of this article. It will be 
found that the scansion exactly conveys the rhjrthm, 
and thus thoroughly fulfils the only purpose for which 
scansion is required. 

But let the scansion of the schools be applied to the 
Greek and Latin verse, and what result do we find ? — 


The Rationale of Verse 

that the verse is one thing and the scansion quite 
another. The ancient verse, read aloud, is in general 
musical, and occasionally very musical. Scanned by 
the prosodial rules we can, for the most part, make 
nothing of it whatever. In the case of the English 
verse, the more emphatically we dwell on the divisions 
between the feet, the more distinct is our perception 
of the kind of rhythm intended. In the case of the 
Greek and Latin, the more we dwell the less dis- 
tinct is this perception. To make this clear by an 
example : 

Msecenas, atavis edite regibus, 
O, et prsesidium et dulce decus meum, 
Sunt quos curriculo pulverem Olympicum 
Collegisse juvat, metaque fervidis 
Evitata rotis, palmaque nobilis 
Terrarum dommos evehit ad Deos. 

Now, in reading these lines there is scarcely one 
person in a thousand who, if even ignorant of Latin, 
will not immediately feel and appreciate their flow, 
their music. A prosodist, however, informs the pub- 
lic that the scansion runs thus : 

Msece | nas ata | vis | edite | regibus 
O et I prsesidi' | et | dulce de J cus meum 
Sunt quos { curricu | lo | pulver' O { lympiciun 
Colle I gisse ju | vat \ metaque | fervidis 
£vi I tata ro | tis | palmaque I nobilis 
Terra | rum domi | nos | evehit | ad Decs. 


The Rationale of Verse 

Now, I do not deny that we get a certain sort of 
music from the lines if we read them according to 
this scansion; but I wish to call attention to the fact 
that this scansion, and the certain sort of music which 
grows out of it, are entirely at war not only with the 
reading flow which any ordinary person would natu- 
rally give the lines, but with the reading flow univer- 
sally given them, and never denied them, by even the 
most obstinate and stolid of scholars. 

And now these questions are forced upon us : '' Why 
exists this discrepancy between the modem verse with 
its scansion and the ancient verse with its scansion ? " 
— " Why, in the former case, are there agreement and 
representation, while in the latter there is neither the 
one nor the other ? " or, to come to the point, " How 
are we to reconcile the ancient verse with the scholas- 
tic scansion of it ? " This absolutely necessary con- 
ciliation — shall we bring it about by supposing the 
scholastic scansion wrong because the ancient verse is 
right, or by maintaining that the ancient verse is wrong 
because the scholastic scansion is not to be gainsaid ? 

Were we to adopt the latter mode of arranging the 
difficulty, we might, in some measure, at least sim- 
plify the expression of the arrangement by putting it 
thus: Because the pedants have no eyes, therefore 
the old poets had no ears. 

" But," say the gentlemen without the eyes, " the 
scholastic scansion, although certainly not handed 


The Rationale of Verse 

down to us in form from the old poets themselves (the 
gentlemen without the ears), is nevertheless deduced 
from certain facts which are supplied us by careful 
observation of the old poems." 

And let us illustrate this strong position by an 
example from an American poet, who must be a poet 
of some eminence or he will not answer the purpose. 
Let us take Mr. Alfred B. Street. I remember these 
two lines of his : 

His sinuous path, by blazes, wound 
Among trunks grouped in myriads roimd. 

With the sense of these lines I have nothing to do. 
When a poet is in a ^^ fine frenzy," he may as well 
imagine a large forest as a small one ; and '^ by blazes " 
is not intended for an oath. My concern is with the 
rhythm, which is iambic. 

Now let us suppose that a thousand years hence, 
when the ^^ American language " is dead, a learned 
prosodist should be deducing, from << careful observa- 
tion " of our best poets, a system of scansion for our 
poetry. And let us suppose that this prosodist had so 
little dependence in the generality and immutability 
of the laws of Nature as to assume in the outset, 
that, because we lived a thousand years before his 
time, and made use of steam-engines instead of mes- 
meric balloons, we must therefore have had a very 
singular fashion of mouthing our vowels and altogether 


The Rationale of Verse 

of Hudsonizing our verse. And let us suppose that 
with these and other fundamental propositions care- 
fully put away in his brain, he should arrive at the line. 

Among I trunks grouped | in my | riads round. 

Finding it an obviously iambic rhythm, he would 
divide it as above ; and observing that ** trunks '* 
made the first member of an iambus, he would call it 
short, as Mr. Street intended it to be. Now further, if, 
instead of admitting the possibility that Mr. Street 
(who by that time would be called Street simply, just 
as we say Homer) — that Mr. Street might have been 
in the habit of writing carelessly, as the poets of the 
prosodist's own era did, and as all poets will do (on 
accotmt of being geniuses), — instead of admitting this, 
suppose the learned scholar should make a ** rule '^ 
and put it in a book, to the effect that in the American 
verse the vowel " u," when fotmd imbedded among 
nine consonants, was short; what, tmder such jircum- 
stances, would the sensible people of the scholar's day 
have a right not only to think, but to say, of that 
scholar ? — why, that he was " a fool — by blazes ! " 

I have put an extreme case, but it strikes at the root 
of the error. The " rules " are grounded in " au- 
thority " ; and this " authority " — can any one tell us 
what it means ? or can any one suggest anything that 
it may not mean ? Is it not clear that the " scholar '* 
above referred to might as readily have deduced from 


The Rationale of Verse 

authority a totally false system as a partially true one ? 
To deduce from authority a consistent prosody of the 
ancient metres would indeed have been within the 
limits of the barest possibility; and the task has not 
been accomplished for the reason that it demands a 
species of ratiocination altogether out of keeping with 
the brain of a bookworm. A rigid scrutiny will show 
that the very few " rules " which have not as many 
exceptions as examples, are those which have, by 
accident, their true bases not in authority, but in the 
omniprevalent laws of syllabification ; such, for exam- 
ple, as the rule which declares a vowel before two con- 
sonants to be long. 

In a word, the gross confusion and antagonism of 
the scholastic prosody, as well as its marked inappli- 
cability to the reading flow of the rhjrthms it pretends 
to illustrate, are attributable, first, to the utter absence 
of natural principle as a guide in the investigations 
which have been undertaken by inadequate men ; and, 
secondly, to the neglect of the obvious consideration 
that the ancient poems, which have been the criteria 
throughout, were the work of men who must have 
written as loosely, and with as little definitive system 
as ourselves. 

Were Horace alive to-day he would divide for us 
his first Ode thus, and make '' great eyes " when 
assured by prosodists that he had no business to make 
any such division! 


The Rationale of Verse 

Maecenas I atavis | edite { regibus 

33 33 33 33 

O et prae | sidium et | dulce de I cus meum 

33 333 33 33 

Sunt quos cur { riculo | pulverem O | lympicum 
33 33 333 aa 

CoUegisse | juvat | metaque | fervidis 

3 3 3 2 3 3 3 

Evitata | rotis | palmaque | nobilis 

3 3 3 3 3 3 3 

Terrarum | dominos | evehit | ad Deos. 

33 33 33 ,33 

Read by this scansion the flow is preserved; and the 
more we dwell on the divisions the more the intended 
rhythm becomes apparent. Moreover, the feet have 
all the same time; while, in the scholastic scansion^ 
trochees — admitted trochees — are absurdly employed 
as equivalents to spondees and dactyls. The books 
declare, for instance, that *' Colle,*' which begins the 
fourth UnCf is a trochee, and seem to be gloriously 
unconscious that to put a trochee in opposition with 
a longer foot is to violate the inviolable principle of 
all music, time. 

It will be said, however, by " some people," that I 
have no business to make a dactyl out of such obviously 
long syllables as " stmt, quos, cur." Certainly I have no 
business to do so. I never do so. And Horace should 
not have done so. But he did. Mr. Bryant and Mr. 
Longfellow do the same thing every day. And merely 
because these gentlemen, now and then, forget them- 
selves in this way, it would be hard if some future 
prosodist should insist upon twisting the Tbanatopsh 

VOU 1.— 17. 257 

The Rationale of Verse 

or the Spanish Student into a jtunble of trochees, spon- 
dees, and dactyls. 

It may be said, also, by some other people, that in 
the word " decus " I have succeeded no better than the 
books in making the scansional agree with the reading 
flow; and that " decus " was not pronounced " decos." 
I reply, that there can be no doubt of the word having 
been pronoimced, in this case, '' decos/" It must be 
observed that the Latin inflection, or variation of a 
word in its terminating syllable, caused the Romans — 
must have caused them — to pay greater attention to 
the termination of a word than to its commencement, 
or than we do to the terminations of our words. The 
end of the Latin word established that relation of the 
word with other words which we establish by preposi- 
tions or auxiliary verbs. Therefore, it would seem 
infinitely less odd to them than it does to us to dwell 
at any time, for any slight piuT)ose, abnormally, on a 
terminating syllable. In verse, this license — scarcely 
a license — ^would be frequently admitted. These ideas 
unlock the secret of such lines as the 

Litoreis ingens inventa sub iliciibcis stss, 

and the 

Parturiunt montes et nascitur ridicuicis mua, 

which I quoted, some time ago, while speaking of rhyme* 

As regardsthe prosodial elisions, such as that of ''rem*' 

before " O," in " pulverem Ol3rmpicum," it is really 

difficult to imderstand how so dismally silly a notion 


The Rationale of Verse 

could have entered the brain even of a pedant. Were 
it demanded of me why the books cut off one vowel 
before another, I might say: It is, perhaps, because 
the books think that, since a bad reader is so apt to 
slide the one vowel into the other at any rate, it is 
just as well to print them ready-slided. But in the case 
of the terminating " m," which is the most readily pro- 
nounced of all consonants (as the infantile '* mamma " 
will testify), and the most impossible to cheat the ear 
of by any system of sliding — in the case of the " m," I 
should be driven to reply that, to the best of my belief, 
the prosodists did the thing because they had a fancy 
for doing it, and wished to see how ftumy it would 
look after it was done. The thinking reader will perceive 
that, from the great facility with which " em " may be 
enunciated, it is admirably suited to form one of the 
rapid short syllables in the bastard dactyl ('' pulverem 

3 3 

O ") ; but because the books had no conception of a 


bastard dactyl, they knocked it on the head at once — 
by cutting off its tail! 

Let me now give a specimen of the true scansion of 
another Horatian measure — embodying an instance of 
proper elision. 

Integer | vitse | scelerisque | purus { 

3 3 3 3 3 

Non eget | Mauri | jaculis ne | que arcu 

3 3 3 3 3 

Nee vene | natis | gravida sa | gittis | 

3 3 3 3 3 

Fusee pha | retrft. 

3 3 


The Rationale of Verse 

Here the regtilar recurrence of the bastard dactyl gives 
great animation to the Thyihm. The." e " before the 
" a " in " que arcu," is, ahnost of sheer necessity, cut 
off; that is to say, run into the " a" so as to pre- 
serve the spondee. But even this license it would 
have been better not to take. 

Had I space, nothing would afford me greater 
pleasure than to proceed with the scansion of all the 
ancient rhjrthms, and to show how easily, by the help 
of common sense, the intended music of each and all 
can be rendered instantaneously apparent. But I 
have already overstepped my limits, and must bring 
this paper to an end. 

It will never do, however, to omit all mention of the 
heroic hexameter. 

I began the " processes " by a suggestion of the 
spondee as the first step toward verse. But the innate 
monotony of the spondee has caused its disappearance^ 
as the basis of rhjrthm, from all modem poetry. We 
may say, indeed, that the French heroic, the most 
wretchedly monotonous verse in existence, is, to all 
intents and purposes, spondaic. But it is not design- 
edly spondaic, and if the French were ever to examine 
it at all, they would no doubt pronoimce it iambic. 
It must be observed that the French language is strangely 
peculiar in this point — that it is without accentuation, 
and consequently without verse. The genius of the 
people, rather than the structure of the tongue^ de- 


The Rationale of Verse 

Clares that their words are, for the most part, enun- 
ciated with a uniform dwelling on each syllable. For 
example, we say ** syliabification." A Frenchman 
would say " syl-la-bi-fi-ca-ti-on," dwelling on no one 
of the syllables with any noticeable particularity. Here 
again I put an extreme case, in order to be well imder- 
stood ; but the general fact is as I give it — ^that, com- 
paratively, the French have no accentuation. And 
there can be nothing worth the name of verse without. 
Therefore, the French have no verse worth the name — 
which is the fact, put in sufficiently plain terms. 
Their iambic rhythm so superabotmds in absolute 
spondees as to warrant me in calling its basis spon- 
daic; but French is the only modem tongue which 
has any rhjrthm with such basis; and even in the 
French, it is, as I have said, imintentional. 

Admitting, however, the validity of my suggestion, 
that the spondee was the first approach to verse, we 
should expect to find, first, natural spondees (words 
each forming just a spondee) most abtmdant in the 
most ancient languages; and, secondly, we should 
expect to find spondees forming the basis of the most 
ancient rh3rthms. These expectations are in both 
cases confirmed. 

Of the Greek hexameter, the intentional basis is 
spondaic.^ The dactyls are the variation of the theme. 
It will be observed that there is no absolute certainty 
about their points of interposition. The penultimate 


The Rationale of Verse 

foot, it is true, is usually a dactyl, but not uniformly 
so; while the ultimate, on which the ear lingers, is 
always a spondee. Even that the penultimate is usu- 
ally a dactyl may be clearly referred to the necessity 
of winding up with the distinctive spondee. In cor- 
roboration of this idea, again, we should look to find 
the penultimate spondee most usual in the most 
ancient verse ; and, accordingly, we find it more fre- 
quent in the Greek than in the Latin hexameter. 

But besides all this, spondees are not only more 
prevalent in the heroic hexameter than dactyls, but 
occur to such an extent as is even tmpleasant to mod- 
em ears, on accotmt of monotony. What the modem 
chiefly appreciates and admires in the Greek hexam- 
ter is the melody of the abtmdant vowel sounds. 
The Latin hexameters really please very few modems, 
although so many pretend to fall into ecstasies about 
them. In the hexameters quoted, several pages ago, 
from Silius Italicus, the preponderance of the spondee 
is strikingly manifest. Besides the natural spondees 
of the Greek and Latin, numerous artificial ones arise 
in the verse of these tongues on accotmt of the ten- 
dency which inflection has, to throw full accentuation 
on terminal syllables; and the preponderance of the 
spondee is further insured by the comparative infre- 
quency of the small prepositions which we have to 
serve us instead of case, and also the absence of the 
diminutive auxiliary verbs with which we have to eke 


The Rationale of Verse 

out the expression of our primary ones. These are 
the monosyllables whose abtmdance serve to stamp 
the poetic genius of a language as tripping, or dactylic. 
Now, paying no attention to these facts, Sir Philip 
Sidney, Professor Lrongfellow, and innumerable other 
persons more or less modem, have busied themselves 
in constructing what they suppose to be *' English 
hexameters on the model of the Greek." The only 
difficulty was that (even leaving out of question the 
melodious masses of vowels) these gentlemen never 
could get their English hexameters to sotmd Greek. 
Did they look Greek ? — that should have been the 
query; and the reply might have led to a solution of 
the riddle. In placing a copy of ancient hexameters 
side by side with a copy, in similar tjrpe, of such hex- 
ameters as Professor Longfellow, or Professor Felton, 
or the Frogpondian professors collectively, are in the 
shameful practice of composing '' on the model of the 
Greek," it will be seen that the latter (hexameters, not 
professors) are about one third longer to the eye, on 
an average, than the former. The more abtmdant 
dactyls make the difference. And it is the greater 
number of spondees in the Greek than in the English, 
in the ancient than in the modem tongue, which 
has caused it to fall out that while these eminent 
scholars were groping about in the dark for a Greek 
hexameter, which is a spondaic rhythm varied now 
and then by dactyls, they merely stumbled, to the 


The Rationale of Verse 

lasting scandal of scholarship, over something whichi 
on account of its long-leggedness, we may as well 
term a Feltonian hexameter, and which is a dactylic 
rhythm^ interrupted, rarely, by artificial spondees 
which are no spondees at all, and which are curiously 
thrown in by the heels at all kinds of improper and 
impertinent points. 

Here is a specimen of the Longfellownian hex- 

Also the I church with | in was a | domed for | this was the | 

In which the | young their | parents' | hope and the | loved 
ones of I Heaven 

Should at the | foot of the | altar re | new the | vows of their | 

Therefore each | nook and | comer was | swept and | cleaned 
and the | dust was 

Blown from the | walls and | ceiling and | from the | oil- 
painted I benches. 

Hr. Longfellow is a man of imagination; but can he 
imagine that any individual, with a proper understand- 
ing of the danger of lockjaw, would make the attempt 
of twisting his mouth into the shape necessary for the 
emission of such spondees as ** faientSf^ and *' from 
the," or such dactyls as '* cleaned and the," and 
** loved ones of " ? " Baptism " is by no means a bad 
spondee, perhaps because it happens to be a dactyl; 
of all the rest, however, I am dreadfully ashamed* 


The Rationale of Verse 

But these feet, dactyls and spondeeSi all together, 
should thus be put at once into their proper position : 

Also, the church within was adorned; for this was the sea- 
son in which the young, their parents' hope, and the loved 
ones of Heaven, should, at the foot of the altar, renew the 
vows of their baptism. Therefore each nook and comer was 
swept and cleaned; and the dust was blown from the walls 
and ceiling, and from the oil-painted benches. 

There! That is respectable prose; and it will incur 
no danger of ever getting its character ruined by any- 
body's mistaking it for verse. 

But even when we let these modem hexameters go, 
as Greek, and merely hold them fast in their proper 
character of Lrongfellownian, or Feltonian, or Frog- 
pondian, we must still condemn them as having been 
committed in a radical misconception of the philosophy 
of verse. The spondee, as I observed, is the theme of 
the Greek line. Most of the ancient hexameters begin 
with spondees, for the reason that the spondee is the 
theme ; and the ear is filled with it as with a burden. 
Now the Feltonian dactylics have, in the same way, 
dactyls for the theme, and most of them begin with 
dactyls, — which is all very proper if not very Greek; 
but, unhappily, the one point at which they are very 
Greek is that point, precisely, at which they should be 
nothing but Feltonian. They always close with what 
is meant for a spondee. To be consistently silly, they 
should die off in a dactyl. 


The Rationale of Verse 

That a truly Greek hexameter cannot, however, be 
readily composed in English, is a proposition which I 
am by no means inclined to admit. I think I could 
manage the point myself. For example : 

Do tell ! I when may we | hope to make | men of sense | out 

of the I Pundits 
Bom and brought | up with their | snouts deep | down in the | 

mud of the | Frog-pond ? 
Why ask ? | who eyer | yet saw | money made | out of a | fat 

Jew, or I downright | upright | nutmegs | out of a 1 pine-knot ? 

The proper spondee predominance is here preserved. 
Some of the dactyls are not so good as I could wish, 
but, upon the whole, the rhythm is very decent, to 
say nothing of its excellent sense. 


Notes on English Verse * 

'^mUIEW questions of equal importance have re- 
J^ ^ ceived so littie attention as the rationale of 
^^ Bit rhythin in general. The Greek and the 
Latin prosodies hare their rules, but nothing mor«, 
l^e philosophy of these rules is untouched. No one 

>To tb> tbird ■nd lut (Hurcb. 1S43) number of tbal ibort-liTed ud 
now T8IT lit Bonon montbly, Tie fhortr. edited by J«nie» Russell LowbH 
and Robert Carter, Poe cantiibuled an article entitled " Rotes Upon EnEliih 
Verse." Tbis paper, wbich the author hlehly valued, also did duty a> a 
leclure, and wu recast (or the diacuEuon of ■■ Ibe Rationale of Vene," in tlu 
collected irorkg. Ii seems dedrable to reprint from Tbt Finxcr the partioDS 

ably complete In tbenuelrea, and form a nluable addition to Poe's theories 

of Hobnes's Tbt Lii Utt wblcb wiU seem Incorrect to most Btudents of 
metrics. This pact of the manuscript of the fioaecr article was lubsequeDtly 
^len CO Dr. Holmes by Hr. Carter, who bad apparently forgotten bow It 
came Into bis possession; and it was printed as previously unpublished 
matter in an illustrated edition (i8Ss) ol Tbc Uir UiL I>r. Uolmes 

of the construction of tbe yerses In question: " I msh 1 had time . . . 
to EO into the question . . . as to t 
studied the yerses from that point of new, 
ing the analysis of my baca to those who 

Notes on English Verse 

has thought of reducing rule, in general, to its lowest 
terms, to its ultimate expression in law. I have long 
thought that it is only by an analysis such as is here 
suggested, with disregard, for the time, of the mere 
conventionalities and imwarranted assumptions which 
disgrace our treatises on the ancient rhjrthms, that we 
shall be able to arrive, if ever, at any intelligible view 
of these rhjrthms themselves. Quantity is a point in 
the investigation of which the lumber of mere learn- 
ing may be dispensed with, if ever in any. Its appre- 
ciation is universal. It appertains to no region, nor 
race, nor era in especial. To melody and to harmony 
the Greeks hearkened with ears precisely similar to 
those which we employ, for similar purposes, at 
present; and a pendulum at Athens would have 
vibrated much after the same fashion as does a pen- 
dulum in the city of Penn. 

But while a full and impedantic discussion of metre 
in general is much needed, the purpose of this article 
extends no farther than to some practical observations 
on the English rhythms ; and I am led to these 
observations solely by the hope of supplying, to 
some extent, the singular deficiency of our ordinary 
treatises on the topic. . . . 

The word " verse " is derived (through versus) from 
the Latin verto, I turn, and has reference to the turn- 
ing at the end of the line and commencing anew with 
a capital letter. It can be nothing but this derivation 


Notes on English Verse 

which has led to the error of our writers upon prosody. 
It is this which has seduced them into regarding the 
line itself — the versus, or turning — as an essential, or 
principle, of metre; and hence the term '' versifica- 
tion " has been employed as sufficiently general, or 
inclusive, for treatises upon rhjrthm in general. Hence^ 
also, the precise catalogue of a few varieties of English 
lines, when these varieties are, in fact, almost without 

I shall dismiss entirely from the consideration of the 
principle of rhjrthm the idea of versification, or the 
construction of verse. In so doing we shall avoid a 
world of confusion. Verse is, indeed, an afterthought^ 
or an embellishment, or an improvement, rather than 
an element of rhythm; and this is the fact which^ 
perhaps, more than &ny\bmg else, has induced the 
easy admission into the realms of poesy of such 
works as the Telemaque of F^nelon. In the elaborate 
modulation of their sentences they fulfil the idea of 
metre; and their arrangement, or rather their divi- 
sion, into lines, which could- be readily effected, would 
do little more than present this idea in a popularly 
intelligible dress. 

Holding these things in view, the prosodist who 
rightly examines that which constitutes the external^ 
or most immediately recognizable, form of poetry will 
commence with the definition of rhythm. Now 
rhythm, from the^ Greek dpiOfAosy number, is a term 


Notes on English Verse 

which, in its present application, very nearly conveys 
its own idea. No more proper word could be em- 
ployed to present the conception intended ; for rhythm, 
in prosody, is, in its last analysis, identical with time 
in music. For this reason I have used, throughout 
this article, as sjoionymous with rhythm, the word 
" metre," from fiirpovj measure. Either the one or the 
other may be defined as '^ the arrangement of words 
into two or more consecutive, equal, pulsations of 
time." These pulsations are feet. Two feet, at least, 
are requisite to constitute a rhjrthm; just as, in mathe- 
matics, two tmits are necessary to form number. The 
syllables of which the foot consists, when the foot is not 
a syllable in itself, are subdivisions of the pulsations. 
No equality is demanded in these subdivisions. It is 
only required that, so far as regards two consecutive 
feet at least, the sum of the times of the syllables in one 
shall be equal to the sum of the times of the syllables in 
the other. Beyond two pulsations there is no necessity 
for equality of time. All beyond is arbitrary or conven- 
tional. A third and fourth pulsation may embody half, 
or double, or any proportion of the time occupied in the 
two first. 

I have already said that all syllables, in metre, are 
either long or short. Our usual prosodies maintain 
that a long syllable is equal, in its time, to two short; 
this, however, is but an approach to the truth. It 
should be here observed that the quantity of an Eng- 


Notes on English Verse 

lish syllable has no dependence upon the sound of its 
vowel or diphthong, but chiefly upon accentuation. 
Monosyllables are exceedingly variable, and, for the 
most part, may be either long or short, to suit the 
demand of the rhjrthm. In polysyllables, the accented 
ones are always long, while those which immediately 
precede or succeed them are always short. Emphasis 
will render any short syUable long. 

Rhythm being thus understood, the prosodist should 
proceed to define versification as the making of verses, 
and verse as the '' arbitrary or conventional isolation 
of rhythms into masses of greater or less extent." 

Let us now exemplify what has been said. We will 
take the words, 

Y &m mdnflrch, 

with the accentuation which belongs to them in the 
well-known line, 

I &m mOn&rch df ftll { siirvfiy. 

Of the three first words, by themselves, with the 
accentuation as here given, we can form no metre or 
rhythm. We cannot divide them into " two or more 
equal pulsations of time," that is to say, into two 
metrical feet. If we divide them thus : 

I &m I mOn&rch, 

the time of the latter division is to that of the former 
as three to two ; and a glance will suffice to show that 


Notes on English Verse 

no nearer approach to equal division is practicable. 
The words as they stand, therefore, are purely prose. 
But, by placing an emphasis upon the pronoun, we 
double its length, and the whole is resolved into 
rhythm; for 

/ am monarch 
is readily divided into two equal pulsations, thus: 

I &m I mOnflrch. 

These equal pulsations are trochaic feet ; and, from 
the appreciation of such equality as we recognize in 
them arises the gratification of rhythm. With less 
than two feet there can be no comparison, thus no 
equality, thus no rhythm. " But no equality is de- 
manded " (here I quote my previous words) " in the 
subdivisions of the rhythm. It is only required that 
the sum of the times of the syllables in the one shall 
be equal to the sum of the times of the syllables in the 
other,'' as we see it above. The entire line, 

I am monarch of all I survey, 

is thus scanned : 

1 &m mOn | &rch df All 1 1 sHav^j. 

Here are three anapaests. The two first suflSlce to 
establish a rhythm; but the third confirms it. Had 
the words run thus : 

I am monarch of all I see, 

Notes on English Verse 

no ear would have been materially offended; but it is 
evident that, in this case, we should have thus scanned 
the verse : 

1 &m mdn-l &rch 5f All | f sSe; 

and the last foot, being a pure spondee (two long syl- 
lables, equal to the one long and two short syllables of 
the preceding anapaests), is, of itself, sufficient demon- 
stration that the spondee has been improperly rejected 
from the English rhythms. 
The two anapaests 

1 &m mQn- | Arch 5f All, 

do not demand that, if a third foot succeed, this third 
foot be an anapaest, or even the equivalent in time of 
an anapaest. The requisitions of rhjrthm are fulfilled 
in the two ; and a novel mood of metre may now arise. 
A conventionality, however, founded in reason, has 
decided that the new metre should, in general, form 
the commencement of a new line, that the ear may 
thus, by means of the eye, be prepared for the change. 
The caesura, whose peculiarities have never been dis- 
cussed, and which I have already described as a foot 
consisting of a single long syllable, is frequently found 
interposed (especially in ancient metres) between vari- 
ous rhythms in the same line. Its object, in such 
situations, is to allow time, or opportunity, for the 

VOL. I.— 18. 277 

Notes on English Verse 

lapse from one rhythm to another, or, more ordinarily, 

from a rhythm to a variation of the same. • . . 

One word here in regard to rhyme. Its employ- 
ment is quite as arbitrary as that of verse itself. Our 
books speak of it as '' a similarity of sotmd between 
the last syllables of different lines." But how absurd 
such definition, in the very teeth of the admitted facts 
that rhymes are often used in the middle of verses, and 
that mere similarity of sound is insufficient to con- 
stitute them in perfection. Rhyme may be defined as 
'' identity of sound occurring among rhythms, between 
syllables or portions of syllables of equal length, at 
equal intervals, or at interspaces the multiples of these 

The iambic, the trochaic, the anapaestic, and the 
dactylic are the usually admitted divisions of English 
verse. These varieties, in their purity, or peifection, 
are to be understood as mere indefinite successions of 
the feet or pulsations, respectively, from which are 
derived their names. Our prosodies cite examples of 
only the most common divisions of the respective 
rh3rthms into lines, but profess to cite instances of 
all the varieties of English verse. These varieties are, 
nevertheless, unlimited, as will be readily seen from 
what has been said; but the books have done much, 
by their dogmas, in the way of prohibiting invention. 
A wide field is open for its display in novel combina- 
tions of metre. The immenseness^ of the effect deriv« 


Notes on English Verse 

able from the harmonious combination of various 
rhythms is a point strangely neglected or misunder- 
stood. We have, in America, some few versifiers of 
fine ear, who succeed to admiration in the building of 
the ordinary established lines, — the iambic pentameters 
of Sprague, for example, surpass even those of Pope; 
but we have had few evidences of originality in the 
division of the old rhythms or in the combination of 
their varieties. In general, the grossest ignorance 
prevails, even among our finest poets, and even in 
respect to the commonplace harmonies upon which 
they are most habitually employed. If we regard at 
the same time accuracy of rhythm, melody, and in- 
vention, or novel combination, of metre, I should have 
no hesitation in saying that a young and true poetess 
of Kentucky, Mrs. Amelia Welby, has done more in 
the way of really good verse than any individual among 
us. I shall be pardoned, nevertheless, for quoting 
and commenting upon an excellently well-conceived 
and well-managed specimen of versification, which 
will aid in developing some of the propositions already 
expressed. It is the Last Leaf of Oliver W. Holmes: 

I saw him once before, 
As he passed by the door, 

And again 
The pavement stones resound 
As he totters o'er the ground 

With his cane. 


Notes on English Verse 

They say that in his prime, 
Ere the pnming-knif e of Time 

Cut him down, 
Not a better man was found 
By the crier on his round 

Through the town. 

But now he walks the streets, 
And he looks at all he meets 

So forlorn; 
And he shakes his feeble head 
That it seems as if he said. 

They are gone. 

The mossy marbles rest 
On the lips that he has prest 

In their bloom; 
And the names he loved to hear 
Have been carved for many a year 

On the tomb. 

My grandmamma has said, — 
Poor old lady I she is dead 

Long ago, — 
That he had a Roman nose. 
And his cheek was like a rose 

In the snow. 

But now his nose is thin. 
And it rests upon his chin 

Like a staff; 
And a crook is in his back. 
And a melancholy crack 

In his laugh. 


Notes on English Verse 

I know it is a sin 
For me to sit and grin 

At him here ; 
But the old three-comer'd hat. 
And the breeches, and all that. 

Are so queer I 

And if I should live to be 
The last leaf upon the tree 

In the spring, 
Let them smile, as I do now. 
At the old forsaken bough 

Where I cling. 

Every one will acknowledge the effective harmony of 
these lines; yet the attempt to scan them by any 
reference to the rules of our prosodies will be vain. 
Indeed, I am at a loss to imagine what these books 
could say upon the subject that would not immediately 
contradict all that has been said by them upon others* 
Let us scan the first stanza : 

I s&w I him Once | b^fOre 
As hh I passM I by th« I d5or 

And &" I gflin 
Th£ p&ve I m^nt stOnes | rSs5und 
As h« I tatters I O'er th« | grOund 

With his I c&ne. 

This is the general scansion of the poem. We have, 
first, three iambuses. The second line shifts the 
rhythm into the trochaic, giving us three trochees, 


Notes on English Verse 

with a caesura, equivalent, in this case, to a trochee. 
The third line is a trochee and equivalent caesura. 
But it must be observed that, although the caesura is 
variable in value, and can thus be understood as 
equivalent to any pulsation which precedes it, it is 
insufficient to form, with any single pulsation, a per- 
fect rhythm. The rhythm of the line " and again " is 
referable, therefore, to the line preceding, and depen- 
dent thereupon. The whole would have been more 
properly written thus: 

I s&w I him Once | before 

As hH I passed I by th« I dOor | &nd & | gftin 

TU pave I m£nt stOnes | r£s5und 

As h£ I totters I O'er th£ | grOund | with his | cAne. 

The pausing or terminating force of the caesura is 
here clearly seen. In the second line, as just remod- 
elled, we make a pause in the trochaical rhythms by 
means of " door." The " and again " has the air of 
a resumption ; which in fact it is. The word " passed," 
in the volume from which we extract the poem (Mr. 
Griswold's Poets and Poetry of America) has been 
printed with an elision, '' pass'd," and thus made one 
syllable, but improperly, for each syllable requires 
fuU accentuation to form the trochee. 

If we look at the second stanza, we shall perceive 
that in the line 

Not & I b«tt£r I man was | f Ound, 


Notes on English Verse 

which, according to the construction of the first 
stanza, should be iambical, the author has merely 
continued the trochees of the preceding verse. The 
third stanza is constructed as the second. So also the 
fourth, with a variation in the line, 

Have been carved for many a year, 

which is thus scanned : 

H&ve b^n | cftrv'd f 5r | mkaf & | y€ar. 

Here, in place of the expected trochee, we have a 
dactyl. Referring to the prosodies, we learn that '' by 
a synaeresis (blending) of the two short syllables, an 
anapaest may sometimes be employed for an iambus, 
or a dactyl for a trochee " ; all of which- is true, but 
excessively unsatisfactory. The rationale of the mat- 
ter is untouched. I was perhaps wrong in admitting 
even the truth of the rule. The fact is that in cases 
such as this the sjoiaeresis of the syllables is errone- 
ously urged. There should be no blending of the two 
short syllables into one; and, unquestionably, if 
blended, the result would be one long, to which they 
are equivalent; thus the blending would be far from 
producing a trochee, inasmuch as it would produce 
more. The idea of the versifier here is discord for the 
relief of monotone. The time of the pulsation is pur- 
posely increased that the ear may not be palled by 


Notes on English Verse 

the too continuous harmony. As in music, so in the 
rhjrthm of words, this principle of discord is one of the 
most important, and, when effectively managed, sur- 
prises and delights by its vigorous effects. It seems to 
be an essential, in these variations, that they be never 
of diminution. A decrease in the ordinary time of the 
pulsations should never be attempted; but a fine dis- 
cord is often effected by mere change of the order of 
syllables, without increase. In iambic rhythms this 
change is most usually seen. For example : 

6 thOu, I wh&t^v I £r tl I tl« please | thine Sar, 
D£an, Dra | pier, Bick | £rst&ff, | dr GM | Uvgr, 
Whether I thdu chOose | C£rv&n | t«s' s6 | liotis air, 
dr Uugh I &nd sh&ke | In Ra | b^l&is' 6a | sy chair. 

Here a trochee forms the first foot of the third line. 
Discords of excess are observed in the concluding foot 
of the third verse and in the penultimate of the fourth, 
where anapaests take place of iambuses. 

These various discords, it will be understood, are 
efforts for the relief of monotone. These efforts pro- 
duce fluctuations in the metre; and it often happens 
that these fluctuations, if not subsequently counter- 
balanced, affect the ear displeasingly, as do unresolved 
discords in music. Very generally one discord re- 
quires a counterbalance at no great interval. This is 
a point, however, which only a very nice ear can appre- 
ciate. Pope felt its importance, and more especially 
Milton. I quote an example from the latter: 


Notes on English Verse 

But say, if our DcUverer up to heaven 
Must re-ascend, what will betide the few 
His faithful, left among the unfaithful herd, 
The enemies of truth ? who then shall guide 
His people, who defend ? will they not deal 
More with his hUowen than with him they dealt 7 
Be sure they will, mM the Angel 

** Said the angel " is here used as a single foot, and 
counterbalances the two previous discords of excess, 
italicized. To this practice, on the part of Milton, I 
especially alluded, when speaking of this poet as sur- 
passing Pope '' in the adjusting of his harmonies 
through paragraphs of greater length than the latter 
ever ventured to attempt." 

Discords of excess are also employed (and even more 
than one in a line) with the view of equalizing the 
time of a verse with the real time of a preceding one, 
when the apparent time of this preceding does not 
exceed the ordinary rhythm. For example : 

But such I a bulk | as no | twelve bards | could raise. 
Twelve starveling bards of these degenerate days. 

If we scan the first of these lines we find only the 
ordinary iambuses; but by the use of unusually long 
syllables the verse is made to labor in accordance with 
the author's favorite whim of '' making the sound an 
echo to the sense.'' It will be found impossible to 
read aloud 

But such a bulk as no twelve bards could raise 


Notes on English Verse 

in the usual time of five iambuses. The drag of the 
line, therefore, is properly counterbalanced by two 
anapaests in the succeeding; which is thus scanned: 

Twelve st&r | veting bards \ In these | d^g&n | 'irafi days. 

Some editions of Pope read, with elision, thus : 
Twelve starv'ling bards of these degenerate days ; 

but this is, of course, improper. Our books, in gen- 
eral, are full of false elisions. 

But to return to our scansion of The Last Leal 
The fifth and sixth stanzas exactly resemble the sec- 
ond. The seventh differs from all the others. The 
second line, as well as the first, is iambic. The whole 
should be thus divided : 

I know I It Is I & sin I f dr mh | td sit | &nd grin 
At him I here | bm thS | Old thr£e | cOmer'd | hat | &nd 
the I breeches | and ail | that | are sd | queer. 

In saying that the whole should be thus divided I 
mean only to say that this is the true grouping of the 
pulsations; and have no reference to the rhymes. I 
speak as if these latter had no existence. 

The last stanza embraces still another variation. 
It is entirely trochaic ; and involves the only absolute 
error to be seen in the whole versification. The 
rhjrthm requires that the first syllable of the second 
line should be long; but '' the " is a monosyllable 
which can never be forced, by any accentuation, into 
length. . • • 


Notes on English Verse 

In tmth, from the character of its terminations 
(most frequently in ^' om, am, i, o, os/' etc.)) as well 
as from the paucity of the monosyllabic articles and 
pronouns so prevalent in the Saxon, the Latin is a far 
more stately tongue than our own. It is essentially 
spondaic ; the English is as essentially dactylic. The 
long syllable is the spirit of the Roman (and Greek) 
verse; the short syllable is the essence of ours. In 
casting the eye, for example, over the lines of Silius 
• . • we shall not fail to perceive the great prepon- 
derance of the spondee ' ; and, in examining the so- 
called hexameters ... by Professor Longfellow, 
we shall, in the same manner, see the predominance 
of the dactyl. English hexameters are always about 
one third longer to the eye than Latin or Greek ones. 
Now it follows, from what has been here explained, 
that English hexameters are radically different from 
Latin ones: for it is the predominant foot, or pulsa- 
tion, which gives the tone to the verse or establishes 
its rhythm. Latin hexameters are spondaic rh3rthms, 
varied by equivalent dactyls. English hexameters are 
dactylic rhythms, varied, rarely, by equivalent spon- 
dees. Not that we cannot have English hexameters, 
in every respect correspondent to the Latin; but that 
such can be constructed only by a minuteness of labor, 
and with a forced or far-fetched appearance, which 

^ Even the regular dactyl in the penultimate foot is often displaced by a 
spondee in Latin hexameters. 


Notes on English Verse 

are at war with their emplojrmeot to any extent. In 
building them we must search for spondaic words, 
which, in English, are rare indeed; or, in their de- 
fault, we must construct spondees of long monosyl- 
lables, although the majority of our monosyllables are 
short. I quote here an imintentional instance of a 
perfect English hexameter formed upon the model of 
the Greek : 

Man is a complex, compound^ compost, yet is he God-bom. 
This line is thus scanned: 

MAn Is & I cQmplfix | c6mpdund | c6mp(tet | yM lis hS | GQd- 

I say that this is '^ a perfect English hexamieter 
formed upon the model of the Greek," because, while 
its rhythm is plainly spondaic varied by dactyls, and 
thus is essentially Greek (or Latin), it yet preserves, 
as all English verse should preserve, a concordance 
between its scansion and reading-flow. Such lines, of 
course, cannot be composed without a degree of diffi- 
culty which must effect their exclusion, for all practi- 
cal purposes, from our tongue. • . • 

Whatever defects may be found in the harmony of 
our poets, their errors of melody are still more con- 
spicuous. Here the field is, comparatively, one of 
little extent. The versifier who is at all aware of the 
nature of the rhjrthms with which he is engaged, can 
scarcely err, in melody, tmless through carelessness oc 


Notes on English Verse 

affectation. The rules for his guidance are simple and 
few. He should employ his syllables, as nearly as pos- 
sible, with the accentuation due in prose reading. His 
short syllables should never be encumbered with many 
consonants, and, especially, never with those difficult 
of pronunciation. His long syllables should depend 
as much as possible upon full vowels or diphthongal 
sounds for length. His periods, or equivalent pauses, 
should not be so placed as to interrupt a rhythm. 
Further than this, little need be said. It is therefore 
justly matter for surprise, when we meet, amid the 
iambics of so fine a versifier as Mr. Bryant, for ex- 
ample, such lines as, 

Languished in the damp shade and died afar from men; 
or, still worse, as. 

Kind influence. Lo, their orbs bum more bright; 

in the latter of which we can preserve the metre only 
by drawing out " influence " into three strongly 
marked syllables, shortening the long monosyllable 
" Lo," and lengthening the short one, " their." 

In turning over a poem by Alfred B. Street, my 
attention is arrested by these lines : 

His ^n I ilotis path, | by blft | zSs, wdund 
Xmdng I trunks gro^p'd | in my- | rl&ds rdund. 

Every reader will here perceive the impossibility of 
pronotmcing << trunks " as a short syllable. The diffi- 
culty arises from the number of harsh consonants by 


Notes on English Verse 

which the vowel <' u " is surrounded. There is a rule in 
Latin prosody that a vowel before two consonants is 
long. We modems have not only no such rule, but 
profess inability to comprehend its rationale. If, 
nevertheless, from the natural limit to man^ power of 
syllabification, a vowel before two consonants is in- 
evitably long, how shall we properly tmderstand as 
short one which is embedded among nine ? Yet Mr. 
Street is one of our finest versifiers, and his error is 
but one of a class in which aU his brethren most per- 
tinaciously indulge. 

But I must bring this paper to a close. It will not 
be supposed that my object has been a treatise upon 
verse. A world more than I have room to say might 
be said. I have endeavored to deal with principles 
while seeming busy with details. A right application 
of these principles will clear up much obscurity in our 
common acceptation of rhythm; but, throughout, it 
has been my design not so much thoroughly to inves- 
tigate the topic as to dwell upon those salient points of 
it which have been either totally neglected or ineffi- 
ciently discussed. 


The Philosophy of 

BARLES DICK£NS, in a note now lying be- 
fore me, alludit^ to an examination I once 
made of tbe mechanism of Baraaby Rudge, 

says: " By the way, are you aware that Godwin wrote 
his Caleb Williams backward ? He first involved his 
hero in a web of difficulties, forming the second vol- 
ume, and then, for the first, cast about him for some 
mode of accounting for what had been done.'* 

I cannot think this ^the precise mode of procedure on 
the part of Godwin, and indeed what he himself ac- 
knowledges is not altogether in accordance with Hr. 
Dickens's idea ; but the author of Caleb Williams was 
too good an artist not to perceive the advantage deriv- 
able from at least a somewhat similar process. Noth- 
ing is more clear than that every plot, worth the name, 
must be elaborated to its denouemeat before anything 
be attempted with the pen. It is only with the diaouc" 
meat constantly in view that we can give a plot its 

The Philosophy of Composition 

indispensable air of consequence, or causation, by 
making the incidents, and especially the tone at all 
points, tend to the development of the intention. 

There is a radical error, I think, in the usual mode 
of constructing a story. Either history affords a thesis, . 
or one is suggested by an incident of the day, or, at 
best, the author sets himself to work in the combina- 
tion of striking events to form merely the basis of his 
narrative, designing, generally, to fill in with descrip- 
tion, dialogue, or authorial comment, whatever crevices 
of fact or action may, from page to page, render them- 
selves apparent. 

I prefer commencing with the consideration of an 
effect. Keeping originality always in view, — for he is 
false to himself who ventures to dispense with so obvi- 
ous and so easily attainable a source of interest, — I say 
to myself, in the first place : « Of the innumerable 
effects, or impressions, of which the heart, the intel- 
lect, or (more generally) the soul is susceptible, what 
one shall I, on the present occasion, select ? " Having 
chosen a novel, first, and secondly a vivid effect, I con- 
sider whether it can be best wrought by incident or 
tone, — whether by ordinary incidents and peculiar tone, 
or the converse, or by peculiarity both of incident and 
tone; afterward looking about me, or rather within, 
for such combinations of event, or tone, as shall best 
aid me in the construction of the effect. 

I have often thought how interesting a magazine 


The Philosophy of Composition 

paper might be written by any author who would, that 
is to say, who could, detail, step by step, the processes 
by which any one of his compositions attifined its ulti- 
mate point of completion. Why such a paper has never 
been given to the world I am much at a loss to say, 
but perhaps the authorial vanity has had more to do with 
the omission than any one other cause. Most writers, 
poets in especial, prefer having it tmderstood that they 
compose by a species of fine frenzy, an ecstatic 
intuition, and would positively shudder at letting the 
public take a peep behind the scenes at the elaborate 
and vacillating crudities of thought; at the true 
purposes seized only at the last moment; at the 
innumerable glimpses of idea that arrived not at the 
maturity of full view; at the fully matured fancies dis- 
carded in despair as unmanageable; at the cautious 
selections and rejections; at the painful erasures and 
interpolations, — in a word, at the wheels and pinions, 
the tackle for scene-shifting, the step-ladders and 
demon-traps, the cock's feathers, the red paint and the 
black patches which, in ninety-nine cases out of the 
hundred, constitute the properties of the literary histrio. 

I am aware, on the other hand, that the case is by 
no means common in which an author is at all in 
condition to retrace the steps by which his conclusions 
have been attained. In general, suggestions, having 
arisen pell-mell, are pursued and forgotten in a similar 

VOL. L— 19.* 2Sg 

The Philosophy of Composition 

For my own part, I have neither sympathy with the 
repugnance alluded to, nor, at any time, the least diffi- 
culty in recalling to mind the progressive steps of any 
of my compositions; and, since the interest of an 
analysis, or reconstruction, such as I have considered a 
desideratum, is quite independent of any real or fan- 
cied interest in the thing analyzed, it will not be re- 
garded as a breach of decorum on my part to show the 
modus operandi by which some one of my own works 
was put together. I select The Raven as most gener- 
ally known. It is my design to render it manifest that 
no one point in its composition is referable either to 
accident or intuition, that the work proceeded, step 
by step, to its completion with the precision and rigid 
consequence of a mathematical problem. 

Let us dismiss, as irrelevant to the poem per se, the 
circumstance, or say the necessity, which, in the 
first place, gave rise to the intention of composing a 
poem that should suit at once the popular and the 
critical taste. 

We commence, then, with this intention. 

The initial consideration was that of extent. If any 
literary work is too long to be read at one sitting, we 
must be content to dispense with the immensely im- 
portant effect derivable from unity of impression ; for, 
if two sittings be required, the affairs of the world 
interfere, and everything like totality is at once de- 
stroyed. But since, ceteris paribus, no poet can afford 


The Philosophy of Composition 

to dispense with anything that may advance his de- 
sign, it but remains to be seen whether there is, in 
extent, any advantage to counterbalance the loss of 
tmity which attends it. Here I say no, at once. What 
we term a long poem is, in fact, merely a succession 
of brief ones; that is to say, of brief poetical effects. 
It is needless to demonstrate that a poem is such, only 
inasmuch as it intensely excites, by elevating, the soul ; 
and all intense excitements are, through a physical 
necessity, brief. For this reason, at least one half of 
the Paradise Lost is essentially prose, a succession of 
poetical excitements interspersed, inevitably, with cor- 
responding depressions, the whole being deprived, 
through the extremeness of its length, of the vastly 
important artistic element, totality, or unity, of effect. 
It appears evident, then, that there is a distinct limit, 
as regards length, to all works oi literary art — the 
limit of a single sitting — and that, although in certain 
classes of prose composition, such as Robinson Crusoe 
(demanding no unity), this limit may be advanta- 
geously overpassed, it can never properly be overpassed 
in a poem. Within this limit, the extent of a poem 
may be made to bear mathematical relation to its merit ; 
in other words, to the excitement or elevation; again, 
in other words, to the degree of the true poetical effect 
which it is capable of inducing; for it is clear that 
the brevity must be in direct ratio of the intensity of 
the intended effect: — this, with one proviso, that a 


The Philosophy of Composition 

certain degree of duration is absolutely requisite for 
the production of any effect at aU. 

Holding in view these considerations, as well as that 
degree of excitement which I deemed not above the 
popular, while not below the critical, taste, I reached 
at once what I conceived the proper length for my 
intended poem, a length of about one htmdred lines. 
It is, in fact, a hundred and eight. 

My next thought concerned the choice of an impres- 
sion, or effect, to be conveyed ; and here I may as well 
observe that, throughout the construction, I kept 
steadily in view the design of rendering the work imi- 
versally appreciable. I should be carried too far out of 
my immediate topic were I to demonstrate a point 
upon which I have repeatedly insisted, and which, with 
the poetical, stands not in the slightest need of demon- 
stration — the point, I mean, that beauty is the sole 
legitimate province of the poem. A few words, how- 
ever, in elucidation of my real meaning, which some of 
my friends have evinced a disposition to misrepresent. 
That pleasure which is at once the most intense, the 
most elevating, and the most pure, is, I believe, 
found in the contemplation of the beautiful. When, 
indeed, men speak of beauty, they mean, precisely, not 
a quality, as is supposed, but an effect; they refer, in 
short, just to that intense and pure elevation of soul, 
not of intellect or of heart, upon which I have com- 
mented, and which is experienced in consequence of 

292 , 

The Philosophy of Composition 

contemplating « the beautiful." Now I designate 
beauty as the province of the poem, merely because it 
is an obvious rule of art that effects should be made to 
spring from direct causes, that objects should be 
attained through means best adapted for their attain- 
ment, no one as yet having been weak enough to deny 
that the peculiar elevation alluded to is most readliy 
attained in the poem. Now the object, truth, or the 
satisfaction of the intellect, and the object, passion, or 
the excitement of the heart, are, although attainable 
to a certain extent in poetry, far more readUy attain- 
able in prose. Truth, in fact, demands a precision, 
and passion a homeliness (the truly passionate will 
comprehend me), which are absolutely antagonistic to 
that beauty which, I maintain, is the excitement, or 
pleasurable elevation, of the soul. It by no means 
follows from anjrthing here said, that passion, or even 
truth, may not be introduced, and even profitably in- 
troduced, into a poem, for they may serve in elucida- 
tion, or aid the general effect, as do discords in music, 
by contrast; but the true artist will always contrive, 
first, to tone them into proper subservience to the pre- 
dominant aim, and, secondly, to enveil them, as far as 
possible, in that beauty which is the atmosphere and 
the essence of the poem. 

Regarding, then, beauty as my province, my next 
question referred to the tone of its highest manifesta- 
tioUy and all experience has shown that this tone is 


The Philosophy of Composition 

one of sadness. Beauty of whatever kind, in its su- 
preme development, invariably excites the sensitive 
soul to tears. Melancholy is thus the most legitimate 
of all the poetical tones. 

The length, the province, and the tone, being thus 
determined, I betook myself to ordinary induction, 
with the view of obtaining some artistic piquancy 
which might serve me as a key-note in the construc- 
tion of the poem, some pivot upon which the whole 
structure might ttun. In carefully thinking over all 
the usual artistic effects, or, more properly, points, in 
the theatrical sense, I did not fail to perceive imme- 
diately that no one had been so universally employed 
as that of the refrain. The tmiversality of its employ- 
ment sufficed to assure me of its intrinsic value, and 
spared me the necessity of submitting it to analysis. 
I considered it, however, with regard to its suscepti- 
bility of improvement, and soon saw it to be in a primi- 
tive condition. As commonly used, the refrain, or 
burden, not only is limited to lyric verse, but depends 
for its impression upon the force of monotone, both in 
sound and thought. The pleasure is deduced solely 
from the sense of identity — of repetition. I resolved 
to diversity, and so heighten, the effect, by ad- 
hering, in general, to the monotone of sound, while 
I continually varied that of thought : that is to 
say, I determined to produce continuously novel 
effects, by the variation of the application of the 


The Philosophy of Composition 

refrain, the refrain itself remaining, for the most part, 

These points being settled, I next bethought me of 
the nature of my refrain. Since its application was to 
be repeatedly varied, it was clear that the refrain itself 
must be brief, for there would have been an insur- 
mountable difficulty in frequent variations of applica- 
tion in any sentence of length. In proportion to the 
brevity of the sentence, would, of course, be the facility 
of the variation. This led me at once to a single word 
as the best refrain. 

The question now arose as to the character of the 
word. Having made up my mind to a refrain, the 
division of the poem into stanzas was, of course, a 
corollary, the refrain forming the close to each stanza. 
That such a close, to have force, must be sonorous and 
susceptible of protracted emphasis admitted no doubt; 
and these considerations inevitably led me to the long 
« o " as the most sonorous vowel, in connection with 
<< r " as the most producible consonant. 

The soimd of the refrain being thus determined, it 
became necessary to select a word embodying this 
sound, and at the same time in the fullest possible 
keeping with that melancholy which I had predeter- 
mined as the tone of the poem. In such a search it 
would have been absolutely impossible to overlook the 
word " Nevermore." In fact, it was the very first 
which presented itself. 


The Philosophy of Composition 

The next desiderattun was a pretext for the continu- 
ous use of the one word " Nevermore." In observing 
the difficulty which I at once found in inventing a 
sufficiently plausible reason for its continuous repeti- 
tion, I did not fail to perceive that this difficulty arose 
solely from the pre-assumption that the word was to 
be so continuously or monotonously spoken by a 
human being; I did not fail to perceive, in short, that 
the difficulty lay in the reconciliation of this monotony 
with the exercise of reason on the part of the creature 
repeating the word. Here, then, inmiediately arose 
the idea of a non-reasoning creature capable of speech ; 
and, very naturally, a parrot, in the first instance, 
suggested itself, but was superseded forthwith by a 
Raven, as equally capable of speech, and infinitely more 
in keeping with the intended tone. 

I had now gone so far as the conception of a Raven, 
the bird of ill omen, monotonously repeating the 
one word, '^ Nevermore," at the conclusion of each 
stanza, in a poem of melancholy tone, and in length 
about one htmdred lines. Now, never losing sight of 
the object, supremeness, or perfection, at all points, I 
asked myself: ^' Of all melancholy topics, what, ac- 
cording to the universal tmderstanding of mankind, is 
the most melancholy ? " ^' Death " was the obvious 
reply. '^ And when," I said, '' is this most melan- 
choly of topics most poetical ? " From what I have 
already explained at some length, the answer here, 


The Philosophy of Composition 

also, is obvious: '^ When it most closely allies itself to 
beauty: the death, then, of a beautiful woman is, un- 
questionably, the most poetical topic in the world; 
and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited 
for such topic are those of a bereaved lover." 

I had now to combine the two ideas, of a lover la- 
menting his deceased mistress and a Raven continu- 
ously repeating the word " Nevermore." I had to 
combine these, bearing in mind my design of varying, 
at every turn, the application of the word repeated; 
but the only intelligible mode of such combination is 
that of imagining the Raven employing the word in 
answer to the queries of the lover. And here it was 
that I saw at once the opportunity afforded for the 
effect on which I had been depending; that is to say, 
the effect of the variation of application. I saw that I 
could make the first query propotmded by the lover the 
first query to which the Raven should reply " Never- 
more," that I could make this first query a common- 
place one; the second less so, the third still less, and 
so on, until at length the lover, startled from his origi- 
nal nonchalance by the melancholy character of the 
word itself, by its frequent repetition, and by a con- 
sideration of the ominous reputation of the fowl that 
uttered it, is at length excited to superstition, and 
wildly propounds queries of a far different character, 
— queries whose solution he has passionately at heart, 
— propotmds them half in superstition and half in 


The Philosophy of Composition 

that species of despair which delights in self-torture; 
propounds them not altogether because he believes in 
the prophetic or demoniac character of the bird (which, 
reason assures him, is merely repeating a lesson 
learned by rote), but because he experiences a frenzied 
pleasure in so modelling his questions as to receive 
from the expected ^' Nevermore " the most delicious 
because the most intolerable of sorrow. Perceiving 
the opportimity thus afforded me, or, more strictly, 
thus forced upon me in the progress of the construc- 
tion, I first established in mind the climax, or conclud- 
ing query — that query to which " Nevermore " should 
be in the last place an answer; that query in reply to 
which this word " Nevermore " should involve the 
utmost conceivable amount of sorrow and despair. 

Here, then, the poem may be said to have its begin- 
ning — at the end, where all works of art should begin; 
for it was here, at this point of my preconsiderations, 
that I first put pen to paper in the composition of the 
stanza : 

"Prophet," said I, "thing of evU! prophet still, if bird or 

devil! ^ 

By that heaven that bends above us, by that God we both 

Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, 
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore, 
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name 

Quoth the Raven, " Nevennorc." 


The Philosophy of Composition 

I composed this stanza, at this pomt, first that, by 
establishmg the climax, I might the better vary and 
graduate, as regards seriousness and unportance, the 
preceding queries of the lover; and, secondly, that I 
might definitely settle the rhythm, the metre, and the 
length and general arrangement of the stanzas, as well 
as graduate the stanzas which were to precede, so that 
none of them might surpass this in rhythmical effect. 
Had I been able, in the subsequent composition, to con- 
struct more vigorous stanzas, I should, without scruple, 
have purposely enfeebled them, so as not to interfere 
with the climacteric effect. 

And here I may as well say a few words of the ver- 
sification. My first object, as usual, was originality. 
The extent to which this has been neglected in versi- 
fication is one of the most tmaccountable things in 
the world. Admitting that there is little possibility of 
variety in mere rhjrthm, it is still clear that the pos- 
sible varieties of metre and stanza are absolutely in- 
finite ; and yet, for centuries, no man, in verse, has ever 
done, or ever seemed to think of doing, an original 
thing. The fact is, that originality, unless in minds 
of very unusual force, is by no means a matter, as 
some suppose, of impulse or intuition. In general, to 
be fotmd, it must be elaborately sought, and although 
a positive merit of the highest class, demands in its 
attainment less of invention than negation. 

Of course, I pretend to no originality in either the 


The Philosophy of Composition 

rhythm or metre of The Raven, The former is tro- 
chaic ; the latter is octameter acatalectic, alternating 
with heptameter catalectic repeated in the refrain of 
the fifth verse, and terminating with tetrameter cata- 
lectic. Less pedantically, the feet employed through- 
out (trochees) consist of a long syllable followed by a 
short: the first line of the stanza consists of eight of 
these feet; the second of seven and a half (in effect 
two thirds) ; the third of eight ; the fourth of seven and 
a half; the fifth the same; the sixth three and a half. 
Now, each of these lines, taken individually, has been 
employed before, and what originality The Raven has, 
is in their combination into stanza; nothing even 
remotely approaching this combination has ever been 
attempted. The effect of this originality of combina- 
tion is aided by other unusual and some altogether 
novel effects, arising from an extension of the applica- 
tion of the principles of rhyme and alliteration. 

The next point to be considered was the mode of 
bringing together the lover and the Raven, and the first 
branch of this consideration was the locale. For this 
the most natural suggestion might seem to be a forest 
or the fields, but it has always appeared to me that a 
close circumscription of space is absolutely necessary 
to the effect of insulated incident : it has the force of a 
frame to a picture. It has an indisputable moral power 
in keeping concentrated the attention, and, of course, 
must not be confounded with mere unity of place. 


The Philosophy of Composition 

I determined^ then, to place the lover in his cham- 
ber, — in a chamber rendered sacred to him by mem- 
ories of her who had frequented it. The room is 
represented as richly furnished; this, in mere pursu- 
ance of the ideas I have already explained on the sub- 
ject of beauty as the sole true poetical thesis. 

The locale being thus determined^ I had now to in- 
troduce the bird, and the thought of introducing him 
through the window was inevitable. The idea of 
making the lover suppose, in the firSt instance, that 
the flapping of the wings of the bird against the shut- 
ter is a ^^ tapping " at the door originated in a wish 
to increase, by prolonging, the reader's curiosity, and 
in a desire to admit the incidental effect arising from 
the lover's throwing open the door, finding all dark, 
and thence adopting the half-fancy that it was the 
spirit of his mistress that knocked. 

I made the night tempestuous, first, to account for 
the Raven's seeking admission, and, secondly, for the 
effect of contrast with the physical serenity within the 

I made the bird alight on the bust of Pallas, also 
for the effect of contrast between the marble and the 
plumage, — ^it being understood that the bust was abso- 
lutely suggested by the bird ; the bust of Pallas being 
chosen, first, as most in keeping with the scholarship 
of the lover, and, secondly, for the sonorousness of 
the word " Pallas " itself. 


The Philosophy of Composition 

About the middle of the poem, also, I have availed 
myself of the force of contrast, with a view of deepen- 
ing the ultimate impression. For example, an air of 
the fantastic, approaching as nearly to the ludicrous 
as was admissible, is given to the Raven's entrance. 
He comes in ^< with many a flirt and flutter." 

Not the least obeisance made hef not a moment stopped or 

stayed he, 
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door. 

In the two stanzas which follow, the design is more 
obviously carried out: 

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling. 
By the grave and stem decorum of the countenance it wore^ 
'< Though thy crest he shorn and shaven, thou," I said, " art 

sure no craven. 
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the nightly 


Tell me what thy lordly name is on the I^ht's Plutonian 

shore ? " 

Quoth the Raven, " Nevermore." 

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so 

Though its answer little meaning, little relevancy bore; 
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being 
Ever yet was blest with seeing bird above his chamber door — 
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, 

With such name as " Nevermore.** 

The effect of the denouement being thus provided 
for, I immediately drop the fantastic for a tone of the 


The Philosophy of Composition 

most profound seriousnesSy this tone commencing in 
the stanza directly following the one last quoted, with 
the line. 

But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only, 

From this epoch the lover no longer jests, no longer 
sees anything even of the fantastic in the Raven's 
demeanor. He speaks of him as a ^^ grim, ungainly, 
ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore," and feels 
the " fiery eyes '* burning into his " bosom's core." 
This revolution of thought, or fancy, on the lover's 
part is intended to induce a similar one on the part 
of the reader — to bring the mind into a proper frame 
for the denouement which is now brought about as 
rapidly and as directly as possible. 

With the denouement proper — ^with the Raven's 
reply, " Nevermore," to the lover's final demand if he 
shall meet his mistress in another world, the poem, in 
its obvious phase, that of a single narrative, may be 
said to have its completion. So far, everything is 
within the Hmits of the accountable, of the real. A 
Raven, having learned by rote the single word, " Never- 
more," and having escaped from the custody of its 
owner, is driven at midnight, through the violence of 
a storm, to seek admission at a window from which a 
light still gleams, — ^the chamber- window of a student, 
occupied half in poring over a volume, half in dream- 


The Philosophy of Composition 

ing over a beloved mistress deceased. The casement 
being thrown open at the fluttering of a bird's wings, 
the bird itself perches on the most convenient seat out 
of the immediate reach of the student, who, amused by 
the incident and the oddity of the visitor's demeanor, 
demands of it, in jest and without looking for a reply, 
its name. The Raven, addressed, answers with its 
customary word, " Nevermore," a word which finds 
immediate echo in the melancholy heart of the student, 
who, giving utterance aloud to certain thoughts sug- 
gested by the occasion, is again startled by the fowl's 
repetition of " Nevermore." The student now guesses 
the state of the case, but is impelled, as I have before 
explained, by the human thirst for self-torture, and in 
part by superstition, to propound such queries to the 
bird as will bring him, the lover, the most of the luxury 
of sorrow, through the anticipated answer, '^ Never- 
more." With the indulgence, to the extreme, of this 
self-torture, the narration, in what I have termed its 
first or obvious phase, has a natural termination, and 
so far there has been no overstepping of the limits of 
the real. 

But in subjects so handled, however skilfully, or 
with however vivid an array of incident, there is always 
a certain hardness or nakedness, which repels the artis- 
tical eye. Two things are invariably required: first, 
some amount of complexity, or more properly, adapta- 
tion; and, secondly, some amount of suggestiveness, 


The Philosophy of Composition 

some underctirrenty however indefinite, of meaning. 
It is this latter, in especial, which imparts to a work 
of art so much of that richness (to borrow from 
colloquy a forcible term) which we are too fond 
of confounding with the ideal. It is the excess of 
the suggested meaning, it is the rendering this the 
upper- instead of the under-current of the theme, which 
turns into prose (and that of the very flattest kind) 
the so-called poetry of the so-called transcendentalists. 
Holding these opinions, I added the two concluding 
stanzas of the poem, their suggestiveness being thus 
made to pervade all the narrative which has preceded 
them. The under-current of meaning is rendered first 
apparent in the lines, 

*' Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from 
off my door I " 

Quoth the Raven, " Nevermore I '* 

It will be observed that the words, " from out my 
heart," involve the first metaphorical expression in the 
poem. They, with the answer, " Nevermore," dispose 
the mind to seek a moral in all that has been previously 
narrated. The reader begins now to regard the Raven 
as emblematical, but it is not until the very last line of 
the very last stanza that the intention of making him 
emblematical of mournful and never-ending remem- 
brance is permitted distinctly to be seen: 

VOL. I. — ao. ^QH 

The Philosophy of Composition ^ 

And the Raven, never flitting, still is dtting, still is sitting 
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door ; 
And his e jes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dream- 

And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on 

the floor; 
And my soul £rom out that abaJow that lies floating on the 


Shall be lifted — neTermore.